he spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge has
infused the U.S. airline industry. He's everywhere, and he's
especially alive and well at Continental and US Airways. By the
time you read this, his penny-pinching ways may have overcome some
But after all the bad jokes about coin-operated baggage bins and
pay toilets, observers of the airline industry are left with a
sorry tale of "same old, same old." Rather than thinking outside
the box, the old airlines are up to the same old tricks -- shaking
down their passengers for basic services while trying to force them
to trade up to a higher fare.
Take, for example, US Airways' new policy about nonrefundable
tickets. Henceforth, most nonrefundables will have, in US Airways'
parlance, "no value once the flight has departed." This means that
if the passenger must reschedule, he or she must do so before the
original departure date. If you don't happen to know your new
travel date, you're out of luck.
US Airways said that "since most people travel as originally
ticketed, most customers will not be impacted by this change."
But if that's the case, why bother making the change? Why make
your low fare less attractive to those passengers who are
occasionally forced to reschedule?
The answer, it seems, is that US Airways believes those
passengers will forego the lower fare and buy a more expensive,
For the same reason, US Airways no longer allows passengers on
nonrefundable tickets to stand by for a different flight.
US Airways justifies these policies by saying they put airline
tickets on the same footing as "many other products that people buy
for a specific date and time such as Broadway shows and sporting
events. If you miss the event, your ticket isn't good for the next
This would be an accurate analogy if airline tickets were
transferrable. They are not.
We don't wish to minimize the urgency of a bankrupt airline's
quest for revenue, but it just doesn't ring true for US Airways to
claim that it is "recognizing a new competitive reality and
tailoring our product accordingly." From where we sit, these
changes are being driven by the company's revenue needs rather than
the needs of its customers or the need to remain "competitive."
• • •
Note to Marriott:
e note that, for a period of
time, you inadvertently paid commissions to independent travel
sellers who were not designated by the airline entities IATA or
We further note that during this period of time, the sky did not
fall, the earth did not tremble and the planets did not tumble from