Now that Delta Air Lines has abandoned some of its unpopular booking fees, is the era of ridiculous airline charges over?
Remember the last time you paid an airline fee that you thought was fair? Think hard.
No? Neither can I.
So when Delta surprised everyone by killing a $25 fee for tickets bought by phone through its reservation sales department and $35 fee for tickets booked at the airport ticket office, no one was upset.
Even Delta’s shareholders were happy. Wouldn’t you be if you just reported a billion dollar quarter?
Who isn’t happy? Well, the rest of the airline industry. Because these charges are a cornerstone fee, along with luggage fees, change fees and other ancillary charges. Take one out and the whole building could collapse.
Maybe that would be a good thing. North America’s airlines raked in almost $11 billion a la carte fees last year — a 24 percent increase over what was collected in 2014. It may only be a slight exaggeration to say that when you weren’t looking, airlines changed their business model from flying passengers to charging fees.
And they were exceptionally good at it. They extracted fees for everything. What to sit next to your kids? That’ll be extra. Check a bag? There’s a fee for that. Board a little early? Pay more, please.
It’s that kind of ridiculousness that’s made the airline industry’s profits soar — and its customer service scores crash.
So, while Delta’s move is likely to make passengers happy, it’ll probably throw the rest of the industry into turmoil. Dropping a fee in the airline industry is a man-bites-dog story. Unheard of. Revolutionary, even.
Or maybe, evolutionary.
As the summer travel season approaches, America’s air travelers are suffering from fee fatigue. A recent survey found nearly half of all travelers hated the phone reservation fees, something Delta has surely known for a long time. And Congress is mulling a law that would curb these annoying extras.
It’s time for airlines to stop trying to come up with new ways to separate us from our money and for them to start offering great service again. It all begins with dropping one fee.
And it’s about time.