Why do airlines hate it when you know your rights?

Plume/Shutterstock
Plume/Shutterstock
Information is power.

No industry understands that better than airlines, which parcels out information about itself on a need-to-know basis, if it does at all. Don’t believe me? Then maybe you weren’t one of the thousands of air travelers affected by last week’s polar vortex, and who were stranded and left in the dark about their flights.

To get a true idea of the airline industry’s tortured relationship with information, consider what happened to Melissa Buchanan when she booked a flight for her mother from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

“I inadvertently selected the wrong destination on her booking,” she says. She phoned Spirit Airlines to ask it to cancel her flight, and it told her that any changes or cancellations made after confirming a reservation carry a fee of $125 through its reservation center or $115 if done online.

But Spirit neglected to mention one very important detail.
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“It is a blatant ambush of personal credit card information”

The pop-up ad Kathy Agosta says she saw after finishing a reservation on Travelocity recently looked like a confirmation screen from the online travel agency, and it offered $20 cash back if she signed up for a service. Although she never shared her credit card information with the advertiser, she found a troubling connection.

“As it turns out, merely clicking on the hyperlink to get more information about the offer apparently allows the advertiser to charge a fee on the same credit card just used to purchase the airline tickets from Travelocity’s website,” she told me. “There is no credit card approval step on this pop-up to warn the Travelocity customer that a charge will be placed by this advertiser on the credit card they just used.”

Is this a more sophisticated version of the opt-out scheme, which Travelocity and other online agencies practice? Or perhaps another shady post-transaction marketing scheme, which may be about to become illegal?

Maybe. Maybe not.
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