Oh, the irrational passengers airlines fly!

What is it about air travel that makes us lose our minds?

Just the other day, I got an email from a reader who claimed she was “outraged” by a flight delay.

The first leg of her flight from Austin to Dallas had been canceled, causing her to miss her connection to an international flight. Although her airline handled the service interruption by the book, offering a flight the following day, she would have none of it.

She just knew it was a conspiracy.

Why? Because her parents had taken the identical flights the day before, and they departed on time. She suspected — although she had no evidence to support this conclusion — that because the flights from Austin to Dallas were not flying at capacity, the airline had simply canceled it.

“We have hotel bookings that they are not willing to compensate for,” the passenger said, “not to mention valuable vacation time we are wasting.”

You don’t have to be an expert on airlines to know that canceling a scheduled flight just because it’s flying half-empty doesn’t make a lot of sense. Besides being on the line for missed connections, meals and hotel vouchers for the displaced passengers, it would almost certainly draw unwanted attention from government regulators.

Either way, a single cancellation hardly amounts to a conspiracy.

“I want a refund and apology,” she said.

I told her I couldn’t help. I didn’t tell her why.

But I’ll tell you: Her request was totally unreasonable. A complete refund on a ticket she’d used? Reimbursement for missed hotel nights? Sorry, no can do.

Related story:   Would you sign this confidentiality agreement?

But reason has nothing to do with any of this. If we were reasonable, we’d be willing to pay a fair airfare — one that covered the cost of operating a flight. Instead, we want something free or as close to free as it gets. Maybe that’s why airline managers feel they have no choice but to lie to us about the true costs of our tickets, dangling unsustainably low fares in front of our noses and then socking us with fees and surcharges.

The problem with air travel, both from a passenger and an airline perspective, is that we’ve disengaged our brains almost completely from the process.

Airlines abandoned reason long ago. Their fares make no sense (why does a roundtrip airfare cost half as much as a one-way ticket, for example?). Their business model makes even less sense (it’s based on upselling you on extras, like luggage fees and sky-high change fees). Even the fact that they’re in the airline business to begin with makes no sense, because if they studied their history, they’d know that over the long term, no one makes money
operating an airline.

And how about passengers? A lot of them are just as nuts. On what planet are $59 fares to anywhere sustainable? Not this one. Yet we don’t book until the price is right. And what if that flight is delayed by a few hours? I’ve seen passengers go after airlines for event tickets, missed hotel reservations, lost wages and vacation time when inclement weather prevented an on-time departure.

Related story:   An unaccompanied minor fee for my accompanied minors? What'll they think of next?

Who are these people?

When it comes to air travel, almost nothing is rational anymore. Don’t even get me started on airports, the TSA, airport food vendors, mass transit and taxi service to the airport. They’re all out of their minds, too.

The crazy isn’t fixable. It will be with us for generations.

As some of you know, I’m wrapping up this column at the end of the year. It’s been a wild ride, but no industry has offered a richer source of material than airlines.

But as perhaps its greatest beneficiary, l just want to say: thank you.

Who's crazier?

View Results

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Update: Many of you have asked what happens after this column goes away at the end of this year. I’m rolling out a new feature on Tuesday, Jan. 1, which will challenge conventions, slaughter sacred cows and bust myths about all things relating to travel and transportation. If you have any suggestions on what you’d like me to cover — or not cover — please send me a note. Your ideas are very welcome.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • technomage1

    The old adage that you get what you pay for holds true. The elfin seats, the fees, the rude staff, the lack of ground staff anywhere to help,with problems… All those are a result of tickets that are unsustainably low priced.

    At least Ryanair makes no bones about it. They are exactly what they say they are. The old legacy airlines in the US are just pretending to be otherwise.

  • My favorite “irrational” was on a flight out of Orlando. There was a tornado, so the plane was grounded. People were outraged – outraged! that they were going to miss their connections.

  • larry bradley

    Airline passengers are no more deranged than other businesses customers. If someone begs to differ, then go ahead and get a job at a retail store and you’ll soon see why. The reason why airline issues get more play is because it is a sexy business and before deregulation, mostly only the well mannered, well off folks flew. I saw on several occasions customers pee in the aisles of my store, one defecate,( sound familiar to airline stories? ), not to mention the theft, lying etc among vendors, customers and employees.

  • $16635417

    Another point on the Austin to Dallas flight. Where was the aircraft and crew going after Dallas? Having an aircraft and crew out of position could very well end up costing more than operating a single leg of a flight below breakeven capacity.

  • $16635417

    Several attempts have been made to create a premium air service. (EOS, Silverjet, Maxjet, Legend Airlines and the original Midwest Express to name a few.) Even legacy carriers attempted to upgrade the in-flight experience, yet the masses still flock to the discount carriers. Even they are looking for more ways to increase revenue, Southwest, for example, is adding 6 more seats, a whole new row, in their interior redesign.

    Chris nailed it. The ancillary fees are the only thing keeping the industry in the black right now.

  • TonyA_says

    It’s all a game. The rules keep on changing. But, play it well or you lose. Control your temper or you get kicked out of the game.

  • john4868

    The world must be coming to an end on Friday. I never thought I would see Chris write an article where the traveler was out of line and state that the traveler was out of line. I whole heartily agree with Chris’s article. As a traveling public, we say we want 40″ pitch, 3 bags included, free changes & premium drinks but we buy the $9.99 airfare that includes none of the above. That’s why I can’t wait to see how AA’s new pricing works out. I wonder how many people will purchase the upgrades.

  • Actually, I go after consumers when they’re wrong often (too often for some of my colleagues). But to answer your question, yes, the world ends on Friday.

  • john4868

    Chris… I always assumed that you had some “you must be kidding me” requests… I just never thought I would see you admit to having one! :-)

  • TonyA_says

    Here’s how irrational it is. FedEx and UPS makes more money flying packages in airplanes than passenger airlines do flying people. And, come to think of it, FedEx is door to door. Their pilots are one of the highest paid in the industry, too. I remember that during some meetings the standard joke was why airlines keep on flying people while struggling to make money. Even Warren Buffet made his famous quote: “How do you become a millionaire? Make a billion dollars and then buy an airline.” 

    Here’s another one from the Oracle of Omaha:
    “The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.”
    “As of 1992, in fact—though the picture would have improved since then—the money that had been made since the dawn of aviation by all of this country’s airline companies was zero. Absolutely zero.”

  • MarkKelling

    Of course FedEx and UPS make money because they actually charge what it costs to deliver the package plus enough to make a profit. Imagine that. :-)

    I ship things often to friends and family so I am often in the local FedEx or UPS office. I am constantly amazed at the reaction of people when they discover how much an overnight delivery will actually cost them. The remarks of “dang, I didn’t even spend that much for the item and they would have shipped it for a lot less than that” almost make me laugh.

  • Adam1222

    I think I just went ice skating in hell… Alas, this passenger is no less irrational than many that have already had their grievances aired on this site.

  • Sadly, customer entitlement, the “me” mentality, and general rudeness abound, not just in the travel business. Every day I read my Facebook News Feed and find myself shocked at what my “friends” demand and expect, as well as the lack of manners and politeness. As a home-based travel agent, I am always fielding inquiries about a dream, yet cheap, trip to (insert destination). It seems everything must be cheap, yet perfect. The quality/price ratio is sorely out of balance. I feel like I’m one of the few left on this planet that still uses the common sense, manners, and patience my parents taught me.

  • TonyA_says

    Learned the system very well. Part of an [elite] team of system engineers who would staple oneself to an express envelope and follow it end to end. I was definitely amazed to find out what people shipped and paid for. Then the same people will fly on Southwest’s cheapest fares.
    Here’s another weird one. I would have to pay a shared van service at least $60 each way between a Stamford CT hotel and JFK to catch a cheap $69 or $79 special Jet Blue flight. If I drive my car, the bridge tolls and parking will cost more than the airline ticket.

  • technomage1

    Well, they obviously wanted to take a detour to Oz on their way to their destination….

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    @elliottc:disqus , I’m pretty sure you discussed the Austin to Dallas situation before, several months ago. This one outrageous demand must have really stuck with you.

    I voted “passengers”, because a) there are more of them than there are airlines; and b) they are part of the general public when they are not flying, and anyone who’s been out shopping in the last month can attest to the general decline in manners exhibited by the public.

    So, will the new column starting Jan. 1 still be called “That’s Ridiculous!”?

  • Charlie Funk

    Some 20 years ago or thereabout Warren Buffett noted that in its entire history, the airline industry had never made a profit. My sense is that airline financial performance since then has been worse leading be to believe that, over its history, the airline industry as a whole has lost money. I wonder if anyone has ever calculated what the total loss or profit in aggregate for all airlines that ever existed. Maybe that has been done and someone reading this can post a reply that answers the question.

  • emanon256

    Its like the hobbyists who used to hire me, sign a contract, agree to my rate, and then refuse to pay because they are just a hobbyist and they should not be charged the same rate I woudl charge a business.

    Or the law firm that hired me to do an infrastructure project, an 3 years later threatened to sue me unless I refunded them because their technology had become out dated.

    And don’t even get me started on the stories from when I used to supervise a call center.

  • No, it’s going to be called something else. I haven’t decided on a name yet.

  • mszabo

    Seems like you are implying that the population at large actually has a choice. Please show me where I can buy a ticket that would cover my additional expenses if it were to cancel the flight and rebook me a day later.

  • john4868

    TravelGuard Trip Insurance Gold or Platinum Plans cover trip interruption and cancellation

  • Jim Daniel

    We become charged up enough to be crazy as soon as we arrive at the airport. We stand in line to check our luggage and as we’re standing there, we start bcoming anxious. It’s usually not noticable, and out good sense tells us we don’t have to worry, we have plenty of time. Once we reach the counter, we’re clearly aware that there are others behind us in line who are running late of for whatever reason, have become really anxious to get done. That results in our rushing to gfet out of their way and our insanity.
    Then we get in the line for security. Again, there’s no need to worry, but the longer we’re there, the longer the line becomes behind us and the more we sense the concerns of those travelers behind us in line. Human nature is not to want to hold up people behind us, so we add pressure on ourselves to get through and get out of the way. MORE insanity.
    By the time we get into the alumiinum tube, again, we want to get to our seat, maybe throw something overhead, and get out of the way of others trying to get to their own seats.
    Is it any wonder WE are the insane people? Lines, folks behind us, others ahead of us, employees, and inspectors all add up to take us away from our normal, calm demeanor, and into CRAZY LAND.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Ah ha! This particular ridiculous situation WAS discussed here: http://www.elliott.org/blog/should-i-have-rejected-this-rescheduled-flight-case/ on March 1st of this year.

  • TonyA_says

    Here’s what I think is happening. The airline company itself is used (being soaked dry) by the upper management (salaries and bonus), financial institutions (high interest rates and fees), oil companies and speculators. so the company does not make money but a few do.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you . . .

    {sorry, couldn’t help it}

  • TonyA_says

    Oh, that princess. I remember her.

  • Harry Baxter

    Just another manifestation of the “Entitlement” generation. These are people who were raised in an era where no spots teams are declared losers, and no child failed to receive a medal or citation, despite the fact that they didn’t do anything to receive one.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    It never fails to amaze me the lengths people will go to in order to have their narcissistic demands met, up to and including contacting a travel ombudsman.

    I’ll be honest, when I lodge a complaint (or a kudo, I’ve even sent those) with a company, I’ll CC Chris on the complaint merely because I want him in the loop from the beginning, should I need him. However, thus far, it hasn’t been necessary to involve him.

    Having worked an 800 line, I know how unreasonable and abusive people can get when they ask for the moon, and expect it to be delivered. I’ve found, though, I get more results when I don’t ask for more than I feel is fair were someone else doing the asking. I consider the company in all of it and I try to not go off the deep end when they turn me down. (Though I’ve been known to. My “Travel Writer Prima Donna” can come out, sometimes)

    Companies have asked me what I feel is adequate compensation for the trouble they’ve put me through. Following a rough back-and-forth with Delta earlier this year, they offered me what I considered “not quite adequate” compensation given the circumstances. When I turned it down, I was asked what I considered adequate. I told them, “I’m not one to ask for compensation or remuneration at times because I’m never sure what’s ‘enough’. However, I know ‘enough’ when I see it and this ain’t it.” They upped the ante a little bit and I declared that to be just right.

    I think a lot of people like to start the negotiation with a higher request in the hopes they’ll be able to negotiate down to what they really want. The reality is, that just makes people roll their eyes and call you a loon. Tell them what’s FAIR for you both and stick to your guns. Don’t ask for the moon in the hopes you’ll get a star.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I think the “premium” concept is just REALLY hard to pull off. It’s very easy to wind up with an end-result that is almost indistinguishable from any other airline except the cost is higher. Maybe for long haul flights the little things would add up, but for shorter flights you’d need to make it a night and day contrast to get most people to pay extra.

    As an example, one of my favorite airlines is Frontier: They’re cheap, the staff is pleasant, interiors of the planes are in good shape with every seat having a video screen (and headphones are complimentary if you pay an extra $10 per ticket which also gets you an earlier boarding group), and their limited offering of food is affordable and of good quality. For a typical flight of 2-3 hours it’d be tough to provide a service that was so much better I’d pay significantly more.

  • mszabo

    True, you can buy insurance for anything through a 3rd party. However I still maintain that the airlines options are obtuse and somewhat nonsensical, so there is no real choice. Checking right now I could buy 10 coach seats on Virgin America for the price of 1 first class seat. I’d rather the first class space, but that price differencial is silly. I could buy myself 3 rows in coach and use leftover $150 to carry on my own upgraded meals. (I checked Virgin America Boston to LAX on 01/29/13)

    Likewise with refundable fares. You can buy 3-5 non-refundable tickets for the cost of a non-refundable. If you have any doubt in your plans your better off just buying tickets for every day you might fly than to buy a ticket that can be changed.

    So sure people are choosing the least expensive tickets, but I wouldn’t say that they had much of a choice.

  • Ellen

    Chris, I just want to say thank you for all the fantastic articles and ombudsman work, and that I’ll be delighted to see your new project and will continue to read anything you write.

  • Extramail

    Flew from Cincy to DC this weekend and the plane was half full. The FA came over the intercom and said, “since the plane is not full you may change seats now before we push back from the gate. However, you cannot take a seat in row 4 or 5 but anywhere else is okay.” Really? Because you didn’t pay extra for the seat you can’t sit there even if its empty? I didn’t want to sit there because i was already in a seat with no one sitting beside me but I was insulted that she even had to say it. Guess they would have had to refund those who had already paid for the comfort economy seats because somebody would have bitched about that. I’m driving 14 hours each way for my Christmas visit just because I don’t want to put up with the Christmas travel hostilities even though I found flights that would cost less than the gas.

  • Thank you.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Except everything you mentioned would apply to a variety of other industries that are successful. CEOs are well paid everywhere, every big company borrows, and fuel costs are integral to tons of businesses. There’s nothing remarkable about that with airlines. The issue is their model: There are big expenses to keeping mechanical wonders flying safely, it takes a lot of employees to run an airline, and the price point after which the masses would stop buying their product (certainly on shorter flights) is fairly low (and likely perceived by the airlines to be even lower than it actually is, which only makes things worse financially for them). There’s a lot of mismanagement in the airline industry on top of all that, but those realities are what make airlines a tough business to succeed in.

  • cahdot

    u have sounded a bit frustrated lately so i knew something was up…. as for the above column if the customer had know in enough advanced time frame that the flight was cancelled she could have driven or got another flight via another carrier but waiting till the next day when u are going international is unreasonable for someone to have to put up with…again CUSTOMER NOSERVICE it is called

  • TonyA_says

    The big difference is that the profile of this industry is a semi-utility (but Electrical, Gas and Water get rates set by PUCs and guarantee a fixed profit and hence YOU can rely on that dividend each year) yet airlines must compete with each other. A similar business in the transport industry, RAIL, is essentially owned and subsidized by Uncle Sam. So is the US Mail.

    A passenger airline is indeed one of the hardest business to manage. But RyanAir’s Michael O’Leary seems to have fun and make money at the same time. He knows how to play the game very well.

  • TonyA_says

    And make sure you pay early so you get Waiver of PreExisting Conditions with it :-)

  • john4868

    Always in the first 15 days after the first expense….

  • john4868

    @TonyA_says:disqus Not to get off subject but you forgot the other key expense which is a mainly unionized workforce between ground staff & crew.

  • TonyA_says

    They probably thought the airplane would fly faster with the tornado.
    Heck, they might even ask for a refund since the airplane used less fuel since the violent air streams flew it to its destination and the plane glided down the runway.

  • TonyA_says

    True, but even if you buy 10 economy seats, you can never boast to your friends that you only fly FIRST CLASS :-)

  • TonyA_says

    Take a Valium, please :-)

  • Dutchess

    I was on vacation for a few weeks and I miss the fact this column is ending!?! What happened?

  • TonyA_says

    Yes how true. After fuel, labor costs come next. Not to mention they still have to buy or lease those airplanes.
    But that is the same with package express airlines. FedEx paid its people very well. In fact when I worked there, I could afford to live next door to Northwest Captains on my engineer’s salary.
    I got home for dinner and he’s stuck on a runway somewhere :-)
    (The Republic crew was probably paid much less.)

  • $16635417

    You’re right. I also see the established airline’s frequent flyer programs as a barrier to entry for new airlines, especially on a premium product. That traveler has too much invested in the legacy’s frequent flyer program to give up on them, especially if they are getting their perks such as upgrades, waived bag fees, dedicated check in line…etc.

  • I totally forgot about that. Thanks for the reminder.

  • y_p_w

    FedEx diversified into ground shipping and office services.

    They also have some pretty good volume discounts. It’s like the opposite of airline travel since they make a lower margin on the business customer.

  • Lindabator

    HAHA! Was in Alaska waiting to board the helicopter for a tour of Mendenhall, but the snow was blowing pretty bad, so they had to cancel the trip. People were cussing left and right. REALLY? They make their money by taking you up, so when they are grounded, there’s a really good reason (they told us it was due to the fact that in the snow, they can’t tell if the line in the ice is just a fine crack or a 300 foot precipice – don’t want to fall down that!)

  • Lindabator

    Very true – which is why when I approach a vendor for a refund for my clients, I give them a choice that is a win-win either way – and keep the violins out of it. Yes, state that the illness, injury, death, etc was the reason, but don’t act as if it is their fault or even their problem. If you let them know you appreciate their assistance, and are reasonable, I find good results in almost every case. :)

  • Office_Bob

    I’ve been lucky because, in the few instances where my flights have been delayed (one where a food cart was stuck partway in its niche and due to safety regs they couldn’t take off until it was pushed in or completely removed as it was blocking the aisleway, another because there were mechanical issues with the original plane and then with 2 more they were going to use as replacements, and a third – how boring – due to weather, which caused a reroute), nobody lost their cool. I do recall how the GA telling us about the food cart-related delay was almost wincing when he went on the PA, no doubt because he was expecting a blowup, but everyone kept their cool and no tantrums happened.

    Sure, it bugs me when my schedule is messed up, but I’ve never thought it was a conspiracy on anyone’s part – sometimes bad things just happen.

  • y_p_w

    Frommer’s is discontinuing columns after Google bought them out. This Tuesday column was published in Frommer’s. Chris says the blog as a whole stays.

  • emanon256

    Full fare tickets. If people want a discount, they get a lot more restrictions.

    As an example, full fare tickets on Frontier are very reasonable, and include free food, free drink, free checked bags, and are refundable. I can often buy a full fare ticket on Frontier for less than a discount ticket on United.

  • emanon256

    You may think the price differential between coach and first is silly, but there are still people out there willing to pay for it. I wish I was one of them, but alas I am not.

  • emanon256

    You should have a naming contest.

  • Dutchess

    You didn’t pay for the seats, so why should you be able to sit there? Even if they’re empty. I’m assuming this was UAL, it’s pretty standard practice with them.

    If there was open seats in first or business class would you saunter up there and sit in those? So, why would you assume you could do that in premium economy?

    Save your outrage for something that actually matters.

  • Dutchess

    Okay, thanks!

  • emanon256

    I am not sure how effective those unison really are. My friend who is an FA told me how little she gets paid and she is Union. It’s barely a living wage and explains why she still lives with a roommate in her 40s. She said the only decent Union benefits are the time restrictions and crew meals.

  • bodega3

    There is a cost to operating that flight. If they fill first class with paying passengers, the rest of the plane could fly for free, according to my sales reps. Now if they took the true cost of the flight, didn’t have 1st or biz, only coach, and divided the cost by the number of seats, think people would like that cost?

  • emanon256

    Oh yeah, she was the one taking her parents on her Honeymoon.

  • TonyA_says

    Haha, without the business customers, FedEx can’t fill the airplanes and trucks. So you are correct, the big businesses what rely on effective and efficient distribution provide the economies of scale that FedEx needs. Everyone else fills up the rest of the containers (at higher prices).

    But FedEx also own a trucking (ground) system so when a customer downgrades to a lower priced system, FedEx can still capture the revenue. The Home Delivery division is based on private contractors giving the company a lot of labor flexibility. Also, FedEx can always park the aircraft in the desert when it does not need it and it can route a package anyway it wants for as long as it gets there (you cannot do that for humans).

    For a classic airline, the first and business class provide a large chunk of the base revenue. When business travelers save money, downgrade, and take economy, the airlines revenue model goes out of whack.

    A classic airlines revenue model was never designed to compete with an all economy class low cost carrier (like Southwest). So unless they put up a separate LCC brand (like Singapore Air did), they are gonna get stuck between a rock (pax demand cheaper fares) and a hard place (high fixed cost regime).

  • TonyA_says

    That would make a great title for Chris – Where’s My Entitlement?

  • TonyA_says


  • $16635417

    I was at a concert last summer and bought the cheapest lawn seats. I saw a couple of seats that weren’t occupied near the front row, center section. I went to take those because they were empty and was told I can’t! Really? They’d rather have those seats go empty than create goodwill with another customer. I watched and those seats stayed empty the whole concert. If they were sold and the person who had them showed up..I would have moved back.

    I was at a hotel recently and they were nearly empty and I asked about an upgrade to a suite and they wanted to charge me! It was late and I doubt they would have filled them but they wouldn’t just give me the better room. I booked on Priceline BTW.

    I went to pick up my rental car the other day and I had a really small car, like I reserved. I asked about an upgrade to something more luxurious and they told me there was an extra charge…even though they had plenty of cars on the lot and weren’t sold out.

  • mszabo

    Well that somewhat reinforces my point. My point was it isn’t customers choosing the cheapest option, is that the Airlines are only presenting them with one rational option. So there is no choice involved and using the rational that it is the customers fault for choosing that option is false.

    As a matter of fact I would be much more willing to pay the ‘true’ cost of biz / first class if it were available.

  • mszabo

    Sure there are, that doesn’t mean it isn’t silly though. I flew first class all the time back when I was taking business trips and didn’t personally pick up the tab. I’d venture a lot more people would be willing to pay the ‘true’ cost of first class. I could likely afford First Class tickets, but I usually refuse out of principal as the Airline insists on rubbing my nose in the absurdity of the pricing.

  • TonyA_says

    When I worked at FedEx, the pilots were organizing and finally got a union. I believe that was also spurred by the company’s decision to buy Flying Tigers which had a union. If the FedEx pilots did not unionize then the FT pilots would have one over them. The rest of the company did not have a union. We did not need one since FedEx paid VERY WELL.

    I believe Southwest FAs (Unionized) are paid pretty well with their TRIP system compared to other carriers. But generally speaking, most carriers pay FAs low (compared to the job they are required to do). Did you read that Cathay Pacific FAs instead of striking this Xmas will refuse to serve alcohol and smile at customers if they do not get their increases:-)

    One thing we should be paying attention at are those regionals. Everytime I look at my flight scheds, it seems that regional airline flights are becoming the standard. The flight and cabin crew of the regionals are not paid well. To me, that is dangerous. The last thing I want is having a flight crew that is sleepy and tired because they moonlight doing something else for a living.

  • Michael__K

    Be very careful — we don’t have enough information to judge whether such a claim would have been accepted or denied in this situation.

    If you read the fine print, schedule changes are not listed as a covered reason for the Missed Connection benefit. If ANOTHER carrier was operating a flight within 3 hours (tough luck if you couldn’t get on that flight) then that’s another basis for denial. Finally, if your airline drags it’s feet when asked to “certify the delay of the regularly scheduled flight” that’s yet another basis for denial.

    If, while on a Trip, the Insured misses a Trip departure resulting from cancellation or delay of 3 or more hours of all regularly scheduled airline flights due to Inclement Weather or Common Carrier caused delay, the Insurer will reimburse the Insured up to the Maximum Limit shown in the Schedule for:

    1. additional transportation expenses incurred by the
    Insured to join the departed Trip;

    2. prepaid, non-refundable Trip payments for the unused portion of the Trip.

    The Common Carrier must certify the delay of the regularly
    scheduled airline flight.

  • bodega3

    A company tried this and failed. They only offered one fare.
    When you have multiple cabins, you aren’t going to get a ‘true cost’ as you call it.

  • emanon256

    That scares me too. It seems post merger UA out of Denver cut back a lot of mainline and switched it to regional service. Some of the new UAX routes are ~1,500+ miles. Some of the pilots look like little kids and I was talking to one once and he told me he started at $25,000. My jaw dropped. City bus drivers make more than that, only need a GED, and they get to come home every night.

  • bodega3

    I guess most wouldn’t pay the true cost of first class as a carrier that only offered this failed.
    Look at the Concord. It went under. Those tickets were not in most people’s ‘affordable’ range.

  • emanon256

    I don’t think its silly at all. People pay for it, as you mentioned you did when you were taking business trips (I wish my company paid for F). If people are paying for it, then why should they drop the price?

  • Extramail

    I didn’t say you had to be offended. It has always been understood that a suite at a hotel or a “better” car would be more expensive. It’s only recently that you’ve had to pay extra for 2 more inches of space in an airplane. And, it’s not like at a car rental place or a hotel where someone who arrives later mightn’t have already reserved that particular car or room. I’m obviously not an elitist traveler.

  • TonyA_says

    Even Singapore Airlines EWR-SIN (Worlds Longest Flight) which is minimum Business Class only has been shelved.

    So those thinking they want to pay the direct costs of elite class will find that no airline can afford all business and up only for some (or most) flights.

  • TonyA_says

    Makes sense. So really she should have flown the day earlier with her Mama.

  • cjr001

    Anybody who believes that this is simply the problem of a single generation are deluding themselves in many ways.

    Or do you really believe you used to walk uphill 5 miles to school – each way – every day?

  • Thank you for helping others, and for sharing and teaching people like me what to do and not to do. I enjoy reading everyday.

    I agree that the current a-la-carte model is frustrating at best and I feel lucky that mostly I travel internationally. I find that I still actually enjoy air travel. On last nights 2 hour flight (departing at 8pm no less) I had a nice meal and wine, included in the price of my ticket. People were pleasant and had some space to move. All this while flying economy, and it’s still the norm for many carriers based in Europe and Asia. I guess the mentality really is different here; I hope it never changes.

  • flutiefan

    exactly, emanon. our “union pay” ain’t that great. i’m not an F/A (i’m at the airport), and the big advantage is that management can’t take advantage of us with times and schedules and such. although my contract was most recently amended to allow them to make us work for 21hrs & 59 minutes with no rest requirement… meaning you may be required to return to your next shift 4 hours later. those 4 hours now include your commute to/from the airport, sleeping, and getting ready.

  • y_p_w

    I thought the legacy carriers made plenty on last minute business travelers flying coach. I once interviewed for a job in the Boston area, and I remember seeing the full fare coach ticket that was booked for me on two days notice. I picked it up at the airport and saw it was over $1300 round trip. I have never ever paid more than $450 round trip for any domestic flight, including trips to Hawaii.

    United tried going all-economy with Ted and failed miserably.

  • y_p_w

    Like I hinted in another post, the retail price is considerably higher than the discount rate that the bulk shippers (esp Amazon) pay. I thought I heard an operator at an online business tell me that it averaged them less than $5 to ship a few pounds overnight with a bulk contract.

  • flutiefan

    as one who is an airline employee and works exclusively at the airport (not on the aircraft), i have to say that the public has gone crazier and crazier over the years. i’ve been doing this for well over a decade, and while the specifics of the complaints have changed, what hasn’t is that people go bonkers at the airport. the stories i could tell you would fill a book, and you probably wouldn’t believe them anyway (such as the time a passenger chased me down the terminal — i ran after he raised his fists to punch me — and was tackled by airport police about 3 feet from me… this was because his travel agent had failed to complete his reservation properly and i couldn’t give him a boarding pass).

    i’m not sure why people find things so difficult at the airport… they refuse to check in on the kiosk (the ones that were put in place because they demanded lower ticket prices, which is sadly achieved by employing less people), even though they use ATMs all the time. “i don’t know how to use a touch screen”, they say, as they put away their iPhone. these people can shop at IKEA where you have to take several steps to actually purchase the item you want, but they freak out when told to drop off their baggage with the TSA or wait in the security line after printing their boarding pass. they tell me they have no idea what time their flight is, they don’t know where they’re going, and of course they didn’t bring their confirmation number — why would they need that??? — but somehow they were able to pack a suitcase and drive themselves to the airport.
    what is so hard about functioning when it comes to travel?? i don’t get it. it’s really not that hard. buy your ticket, show up, get through, sit down, and that’s it.

    i recently heard that a study concluded that people become 30% more stupid the moment they step into an airport. i couldn’t believe it. i thought it had to be at least 50%.

  • flutiefan

    btw, i thought that whole notion of a round trip costing less than a one-way had become less and less common… kinda like the “Saturday night stay” requirement that many airlines had in the past. maybe i’m wrong, but i know my airline hasn’t done that in years. and recently while i was looking to purchase a ticket for an important event, i noticed that all the airlines i checked were quoting each way, not a round-trip.

  • $16635417

    Not offended. I am wondering why would the hotel or car rental offer to allow me to PAY for an upgrade if the suite or luxury car was reserved for a late arriving customer?

  • flutiefan

    but it’s odd that here, she says her parents flew on the identical flight the day before and everything was on time, and in the March column she says her parents were rescheduled, too…

  • bayareascott

    Benefits vary from airline to airline, so it is dangerous to make assumptions from the comments from one FA.

    The bigger problem than the “effectiveness of unions” is the governmental regulations. Workers in the transportation industry are at a severe disadvantage compared to other workers when it comes to collective bargaining. Most collective bargaining is governed by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In transportation, there is different legislation called the Railway Labor Act (RLA). This was created because the government believed interstate commerce was too important to allow workers the same rights to “self help” as afforded in other industries.

    Under the NLRA, contracts expire. If there is no new contract in place by the expiration, the workers may strike. Under the RLA, contracts NEVER expire, but become amendable. Negotiations must go through federal mediation and Presidential Emergency Boards when a new Agreement cannot be reached. The average negotiation under the NLRA takes 12 months, and under the RLA, 22 months — almost twice as long. Amtrak workers went almost 8 years without a new contract. Many United employees are about to complete year 4 of negotiations, and have not seen wage increases in over 10 years. The advantage in transportation negotiations is HEAVILY weighted toward the companies. Think about that the next time you take a harsh attitude toward employees.

    This concludes today’s lesson on “Collective Bargaining in the Transportation Industry.” Not that anyone really cares… :)

  • bayareascott

    Other people paid for it. You expect to get it for free. You are exactly what is wrong with the traveling public.

  • bayareascott

    Rows of seats are removed to create that extra space. Six less seats can be sold per row removed. That revenue is made up for by selling extra legroom. You may not be an elitist traveler, but you sound like one. When you give away a product for free, it devalues the product for those who have paid for it.

  • emanon256

    Thank you and I care.

  • jm71

    It’s still route and season dependent — for our family trips from the west coast to the east coast, I often find that the round trip is the sum of the separate one-way prices, but not always. Worth checking both ways. It’s handy sometimes when I can book each way separately — if I’m coming back separate from the family we can still book outbound together, or we can sometimes use miles for one direction and pay for the other. The risk is, of course, having to pay double change fees if the whole trip has to be moved.

  • Joe Farrell

    Up Front with Chris Elliott . . .

  • Chris, there’s no doubt in my mind that you made this one up. Her PARENTS’ flight the day before wasn’t cancelled so HER cancellation is a conspiracy? I can hardly type from laughing. I also couldn’t wait to tell you that we just flew to Orlando with not a single TSA problem … actually the TSA agent at SJC last week told me I had beautiful blue eyes! I’m still looking for the jerks at TSA and can’t find them. Thanks for all the wonderfulness so far … looking forward to the new column/blog/whatever on 1 January, assuming we live through the end of the world on what? the 21st? Happy Holidays, everybody!

  • Nigel Appleby

    I gree; thank you Chris and keep up the goog work somewhere

  • Nigel Appleby

    Yup how true. I remember when I was still managing an Insurance Brokerage (before I retired) and a customer came to see me because of a problem. I asked him what he wanted me to do to fix it and he didn’t know. His mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water without any noise coming out. He had come in to complain and expected things fixed but didn’t know what it would take to fix the problem. So until he could tell me what action he wanted I couldn’t do anything. He never did come back over the complaint. As has been said elsewhere the complainers expectati0ons must be reasonable.

  • flutiefan

    thank you for that explanation. you said it better than i could have even attempted! i hate the RLA. and i cannot stand that the NLRBoard rulings that assist every other industry don’t have any effect on mine.
    people should also think about that when they take a harsh attitude on all unions. they’re not created equally (good nor bad).

  • y_p_w

    Ah – crazies. Like the infamous Hong Kong International Airport meltdown.


  • bayareascott

    I wasn’t intending to direct that last barb at you. Hope you didn’t take it that way. :)

  • y_p_w

    They typically get that paid by their employer or at least it’s a tax writeoff.

    If employers insisted on special fares which didn’t go to such programs, they’d dry up quickly.

  • emanon256

    I figured you weren’t. But I am glad you said it for the sake of others.

  • bayareascott

    You are welcome. I tend to think people not in the industry don’t care all that much, but these are the plights of workers in all industries today as the corporations are taking over the government. A little education never hurts!

  • $16635417

    I know people who insist on AA when their employer is paying but fly Spirit when it’s their own buck for a family trip.

  • JimDavisHouston

    Wow – this one caught me off guard. Brace yourself for some “hatemail”.

    Secondly – How solid is your information about Friday. Should I change my ORD to IAH flight to Thursday? Under these circumstances, will they charge a change Fee? If I’m delayed by the end of the world, can I get a refund? I’m so confused!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • TonyA_says

    Yes they do, but the bulk of the passengers on coach are on restricted fares. The classics need these higher revenue seats to make money. Any hiccup in business first hurt them. So you see the reason why they charge ancillary fees in coach. I think the business class market shrunk after the 2008 recession.

  • Ann Lamoy

    Excellent advice.

    And sometimes, simply emailing without a request will get you something nice.

    On September 28th, I had a 7:10 flight from LAS to SEA. We pushed away from the gate but before we could take off, we ended up pulling back. Someone heard a strange noise and reported it. Maintenance checked it out and after we deplaned, spent about 6 hours trying to fix it (even so far as to getting on the phone with Boeing engineers). They ended up cancelling the flight.

    Because they had no plane they could bring in, they had to rebook the full plane of passengers. About 30 people got on a Delta flight that went through Salt Lake. There were only two other flights leaving that night-one at 8:30 and another at 9:50. While we were all standing in line trying to rebook, an Alaska Air rep walked through handing us cards to fill out to mail in so we could either get airline miles or a voucher as compensation for our trouble. (they had already given us a meal voucher around 11am).

    I ended up getting the last flight out. About 30 people couldn’t get flights and had to stay overnight so they were put up. (We all got meal vouchers for an evening meal as well-they got a meal voucher for the morning).

    I mailed in the card requesting a voucher. When almost a month had passed and I hadn’t gotten anything, I emailed customer service. I gave a quick explanation of what happened that day (flight number included) and said that I hadn’t received the voucher yet and I was wondering when I could expect it. I didn’t mention anything about how much I expected it to be not was my tone angry in any way. (I mentioned that I understood that things happened and I was pleased with how accommodating the people at the airport were.)

    Within 24 hours, I received an email from a VP of Customer service, apologizing for the delay and what happened. He also gave me a $350 voucher-good for one year. Considering the flight cost $303, I was extremely surprised and pleased. I honestly was expecting maybe a $50 or $75 voucher at most. I have to wonder if one of the reason it was so much is because I was pleasant in my email and not coming across as a “give me this NOW because it is all your fault”.

  • Michelle C

    I have friends who work retail and they also have seen people defecate in the middle of the store for what could only be described as for “$h1ts and giggles.” I work as a nurse and I can tell you people feel so entitled they do irrational things, and come off as crazy.

  • Bill___A

    Thank you Chris

  • Bill___A

    That’s right, you can’t sit there even if it is empty. They will generally let you change if you pay but there’s a convenience fee for doing it on the plane.
    People who pay for upgrades don’t want others to be able to just get them for free.
    If you get so stressed out on a simple flight that you need to drive on the road 14 hours each way, then I hope you are at least driving sensibly.

  • y_p_w

    I haven’t traveled that much on business, but my business travel has only been on two airlines – Southwest and Reno Air. One thing was that they were cheap and the other was that they covered the important routes for our business.

    Of course Reno Air is long gone.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I’m making a guess, mind you, but I suspect anyone who urinates or defecates in a store aisle has a mental problem. The societal shame on such an action is so high that most people would rather urinate or defecate in their pants while dashing to a bathroom.

  • larry bradley

    They may have a mental problem? Actually, they were all drunk, just like the folks on airplanes that were doing the same thing.

  • Lil’ Miss Nightmare

    I flew to Seattle with a layover in Denver in July ’12. Our 50 minute layover turned into a 4 hour delay because of mechanical problems with the plane. We boarded the flight & after 45 minutes were asked to leave the plane because of a mechanical failure. The people at the desk were almost immediately surrounded by irate passengers screaming for compensation of some sort. I didn’t want to jump into that shark pool but I really wanted to get an idea on either the problem or amount of time it would take so I could grab something to eat/a smoke/a drink.. I talked to the lady at the counter who informed me that the computer on the plane failed & they were working on it.. & I stopped her & said “I don’t care how long it takes. I am not mad in the least. I just want the plane fixed before I get on it. That’s all I care about. I could be here for the night, don’t care, I want to be on a working plane, the end” & we both laughed & agreed that was best for everyone. They were great with giving us updates but some people on that flight were just total jerks about it. Y’all can fly your own damn selves on the broken plane.. The flight crew & I will wait till a working one arrives if y’all are in that much of a rush. Finally after 2 different computers were replaced (the replacement broke & we had to wait for another one to arrive from another airport – OH THE HUMANITY!) we boarded. The flight was pleasant otherwise & they comped my gin & tonic on the flight (which made my “OMG FLYING IS TERRIFYING” nerves very happy) because of the delay.
    I got to my destination alive… that’s all a girl can ask for.

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