Ashlea McDonald’s grandfather is dead. Virgin America should be pleased about that; it’s going to earn an extra $1,000 in change fees and fare differentials.
Well, OK, it may be a stretch to say the airline is happy that her grandfather has passed away, but it is looking forward to the additional revenue it will collect from her misfortune.
McDonald and her fiance had to reschedule a trip to attend the funeral. And that’s when Virgin got ’em.
“My fiance and I ended up spending almost $1,000 to move our flight up one day earlier — traveling the same distance and arriving at the same airport,” she says.
She wants to know why.
I know the reason, but I don’t know a good reason.
Airlines such as Virgin use dynamic pricing to set fares. A ticket purchased at the last minute would have cost more, so they charged her more.
They charged her because they could. They didn’t care about her personal circumstances. And that’s no anomaly. Virgin America did almost the exact same thing to another traveler with a last-minute change back in 2012, and all the social media shaming in the world didn’t change it. The airline doesn’t offer any bereavement fares.
“So unfortunate they can gouge families in their time of grief,” says McDonald.
Yes, they can. But should they?
Airlines should be treating a schedule change like this as if it’s a flat tire, by which I mean it’s an event beyond the customer’s control, and they shouldn’t be punished for it.
Did I just say punish? I did. Walk-up fares are punitive, designed to force business travelers to pay two or three times more than an advance-purchase fare. They have absolutely no business socking someone like McDonald this way. Only the most hard-hearted airline shareholder would disagree with that.
If enough people pushed for a meaningful reform in airline policies, it could happen. I mean, airlines don’t want to offer flat-tire policies, but in response to public pressure, they do. They also don’t want to refund their tickets when a flight schedule changes, but they do that, too.
Similarly, there’s no justification for charging a passenger like McDonald another grand for the same tickets. It’s just wrong.
Virgin America may not be happy about Grandpa’s demise, but it is profiting from it, and that is morally reprehensible. Isn’t it time we applied pressure to the airlines to do the right thing?