Letters to the Editor: June 15, 2009

British Airways' customer service is getting worse rather than better

In reading Arnie Weissmann's column about British Airways [From the Window Seat: "Toughest vs. bleak," June 1], I wish he had mentioned to Mr. Walsh that BA seems to be moving backward rather than forward with customer service. 

Frequent travelers for us groan and protest when they are offered British Airways as an option to fly to London due to the fact that [restricted premium and economy] seats can only be assigned 24 hours in advance. I cannot understand how they get by with it, but as with most airlines, whatever they toss to the public, it is accepted like sheep going through the gate together.

The same with Ryanair. Whatever new way to wring money out of flyers their mouthy CEO can come up with, people continue to pile on their planes (though the airline is now finally enjoying a loss).

Ronald A. Schubert, president
TCU Travel, A Subsidiary of Teachers Credit Union
South Bend, Ind
.

Why don't carriers add new fees for things we'd willingly pay for?

I was reading Arnie Weissmann's column "Complexity is good, confusion's even better" [From the Window Seat, June 8]. At the Ohio State Aviation Symposium several weeks ago, similar discussions arose, and Henry Harteveldt of Forrester Research was the first to pose questions on why airlines don't consider charging for things people would be happy to pay for, such as sitting far from a baby. 

We already have premium-aisle-seat pricing. Ryanair is letting people who "hold it in" save on the bathroom charge. I foresee the creation of quiet cabin seating, because I think it's only a matter of time before cellphone use is permitted. As for hotels, you were on the money: more for a specific room (which they already do for views).

I came up with a list of things I'd be willing to pay for: guaranteed overhead space, a seat far from a baby, bags rushed onto the carousel, a gourmet meal option, a room away from the elevators or ice, a room not a mile down the hall (in Vegas hall-speak), a room with no connecting room next to it, a room that is not above the hotel disco, etc.

As for complexity, it will benefit hotels because it forces people to truly view the product, decide what's important to them and thus make justifiable any costs associated with preference.

Pamela Johnston, president
PJ Inc. Public Relations
New York

Memo to airlines: Travel agents are a revenue source, not a cost

I have to join Chris Russo in strongly condemning the comments regarding paying for access to the carriers' product ["Are CEOs of AA, Delta signaling each other or just delusional?" April 27]. When I first read this, I thought it was some sort of joke. Both CEOs miss a point that has plagued airlines since they eliminated commissions. 

Had the airlines understood where their revenue comes from, they never would have removed commissions. As an accountant and a travel agent, I have learned there are only three reasons people travel: business, VFR (visiting friends and relatives) and vacation.

The business market is eroding as the government criticizes lavish conventions of the past, and video conferencing will cause further deterioration in this market.

The VFR market can only be grown through price cutting, which the Internet has facilitated.

But the major point of this letter is that the carriers did not appear to realize when they eliminated commissions that the only type of travel with elasticity of demand was the vacation market. Who is the 800-pound gorilla in this market? You guessed it, the travel agent.

Not only should the idea of paying for access to their product be curtailed, they should restore commissions to grow the vacation market. The commissions are not paid by the carrier but by the customer. The elimination of commissions caused a severe dwindling in the number of travel agents. If carriers don't understand that the more outlets selling travel, the more their sales, then they need a course in Marketing 101.

Mike Spinelli, past president
ASTA
Rye Beach, N.H.

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