United Airlines and US Airways lead the pack, according to the Transportation Department, charging their customers $78 million and $66 million, respectively. (The figures on the chart are for the first quarter of 2009, and are in millions.)
Conspicuously missing, of course, is Southwest Airlines. It doesn’t play that game with its customers.
Also noteworthy is Delta Air Lines’ low number. Is it waiving the fee for more travelers? And will its acquisition of Northwest Airlines, which charged nearly $40 million, encourage it to do the same?
Also, where’s American Airlines? Did it bother reporting this number for the quarter?
Meantime, here are a few thoughts on change fees:
• It’s easy to see the airlines that consider change fees a reasonable penalty for a change in schedule, versus a profit center. Most passengers don’t have any trouble paying what they consider a fair change fee. But they don’t want to be taken advantage of.
• I’m willing to bet that these numbers will be higher for the balance of 2009 and significantly higher in 2010, particularly for legacy airlines. Can you say “no waivers, no favors”?
• Is there a correlation between change fees an profitability? The most distressed airlines also charge the most ticket change fees. Could that be a coincidence?