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The Dumbest Fee in the Airline Business

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (TheStreet) -- Two weeks ago, flying from New York to Charlotte, I arrived at LaGuardia Airport early to catch the 3:40 p.m. US Airways' flight home. I was early enough that when I arrived at the gate, the 2:50 p.m. flight to Charlotte was still boarding.... ( Altro...

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Doug Jette 5
I think that most airlines will waive that fee if inclement weather is a culprit. I was flying from BOS-ORD on United, and there was a blizzard coming through Boston. I looked it up later and RVR was hovering around 1 mile, and the winds were gusting up to 40 kts. I asked to go standby on an earlier flight, saying I wanted to get out ahead of the weather, and she said "We normally charge a $75 change fee, but I'm going to waive it because of the weather".

I completely agree though with the article that it is ridiculous and I would never pay it personally.
American has never charged me to change a flight at check-in. I'm not a million-miler by any stretch. I am, however, at least enrolled in the AAdvantage program and I use all the little tricks to gain miles for eating out, DirecTV, electric bill miles, etc. It all adds up. Haven't flown steerage in two years. Probably won't ever again. While I hardly ever book first class, it is almost always an easy upgrade for $100 or a few thousand miles. American, at the very least, acknowledges and occasionally rewards my loyalty.

Oh, and that Admiral's Club thing doesnt hurt either.

So I pay an extra $100 for first class. No bag fees, Free drinks, Free food, Free blankets and pillows, free headsets, bags come up the belt first, etc. The Admiral's Club is $400 a year, but as Wayne knows, I can drink that in two flights!

Four Bloody Marys into the flight and I can guarantee you those folks on the ass-end of the plane, through misc fees and such, paid as much as I did. After landing, I walk (ok maybe stumble) right by all of them at the carousel, grab my bags and head out the door. They'll be waiting another half hour for their bags while I'm checking in at the hotel.

No different than the people who complain about gas prices all the time. Then, when the Wal-Mart station (Murphy USA) knocks a nickel off the price from the local Valero, those same idiots are stacked up 10 deep, in line for gas, idling their engines on a hot summer day for 30 mins..... to pump 15 gallons at a whopping 5 cent discount.... That's right. They spend $4 to save 75 cents. The more I think about it, the more I think that some morons belong in steerage!
preacher1 4
Bloody Marys. My God, have you forsaken the crown!!!!! LOL
On an 8am flight? If I drink the Crown, they'll remove me from the plane because I am an irate, raging alcoholic. A ton of Vodka, with a splash of Tabasco, Worcestershire, pepper, celery, etc... Suddenly, it's ok.

I don't quite understand that logic, but I sure would like to shake the person's hand who came up with that... Well played.
preacher1 2
LOL. Be nice now.
n9341c 2
Chris I'm just curious....have you ever been punched in public, or do you just hide your bravado behind the internet? Sorry, but you seem like a real ass.

When's your next flight, if you don't mind me asking?
preacher1 1
I guess you are entitled to your opinion, but his is not a false bravado hiding on the net. He is full well capable of standing up for himself, but he jumped in here for me a couple years back, and I feel like returning the favor. I don't know exactly where you are located but down here in AR and TX, calling someone an A** will get you a lesson in punching, and put you on the receiving end of it. Why don't you just tell us when your next flight is and we'll just meet and educate you. I may be retired but not anywhere near out to pasture.
Ironic isn't it - a guy hiding behind a computer, saying another person is a coward for hiding behind a computer. Kettle, meet pot. Seriously? Don't get too worked up or you will end up like me LOL
I was talking about Tim's comment to Chris by the way - not you preacher1. Just wanted to clarify- it could have been misunderstood
preacher1 1
Good to see you this morning. How you doing these days?
I can't sleep because my back is in bad shape - its 5am here. UGGHHHHH!!! This has got to stop! I hit a plateau with my pogress. After the surgery I was in horrible shape. Part of the problem was that the doctor, who is anti medication decided to give me ketamine which is a hallucinogen and not a pain killer. It took quite some time for me to get it all out of my system. I said some pretty weird things back then. I think I am worse now than before the surgery. I don't think I can do another surgery again. That last one ( i had 3 so far) - was absolutely horrific.k I want to get a job asap - god knows Avantair isn't an option anymore. Some of saw that coming in 2010 - but management didn't want to hear it. They loved the "yes men" - that way the CEO got what he wanted , while he surrounded himself with yes men. Avantair should be studied by management courses in a way that a profitable service can be run into the ground by bad leadership and corporate culture.
preacher1 0
I believe I'd be looking dor another Dr. As far as a job, by your own words, are you even in shape to hold one down? As far as AvantAir, I don't know much about them. I just read the FA article on them. Don't know any of the past history.
(v)e Same 1
Guess thats a no then, huh?

Yeah well, dun worry. Those little priority load tags often get "mixed" up when its time to drop them off at the bag belt. Especially when they are on golf clubs, or weigh 140 lbs and require 3 sets of roller wheels on the bottom to support their over-sized loads.
Neil49 1
Wow. I'm sure you're every airline's favorite customer. Especially American's.
Not sure of the angle you're taking here, but I can assure you I do not fly enough to be anyone's favorite. Attitude at the counter accounts for most of the good vibes AA sends in my direction.

You can kill em all with kindness.
Just to play devil's advocate... it was apparently common for some passengers to buy cheaper flights they didn't intend to fly on and arriving at the airport early just to stand by for more convenient flight time that is normally more expensive, thus depriving the airline of revenue.

There are also increased labor costs by having to occupy gate agent time issuing new tickets, and possibly baggage handler time if checked luggage has to be located/extracted from the original flight and moved to the new flight. (Airlines don't like to have luggage travel on flights that the passenger is not on, for potential security reasons and also to avoid getting separated/lost/stolen.)
Since our airport and airline were both small, we could allow passengers to standby and put luggage on board at the last second. Clearly, that is not possible in a larger situation and certainly not possible these days due to security. So, no luggage for standbys, period. You check luggage, you go on that flight.

I used to take lower priced tickets anyway. That is a risk an airline assumes when they issue discount tickets in the first place. The passenger is also taking a risk of getting bumped. The more valuable tickets went first. Less valuable later, non-revs were last.

We also had passengers and travel agents (yes, travel agents) making fake reservations so they could get on a flight. I caught several doing this and denied boarding to them, the travel agent got turned in to her boss. This would be much more difficult to do nowadays because of ID requirements.
once the airplane leaves with the empty seat, it doesn't matter what the fare was. It's ZERO! While there 'could' be a sale or need for that occupied seat on the latter flight.

I'm all for waving the fee if there's no luggage handling needed.
If passengers have the expectation that they can get a free "upgrade" then they will stop paying for it and the perceived value of the higher priced flight is diminished.

The same reasoning applies to why some airlines say that their flight attendants are not permitted to make their own decisions to upgrade coach passengers to first/business class and would rather those seats just go empty.
Gee! You mean there were open seats? He sure isn't flying the routes I'm on.
I've bought tickets to travel on Greyhound and if I arrive early and there's a bus heading the same destination, they put me on it. An empty seat is lost money plain and simple.
preacher1 0
I guess they feel that since everybody is doing it and we can get away with it, let's do it. Problem with that is that they don't seem to be looking ahead for wx delays or some other cascade that might fill that later flight. Fact of life though, it's their company.
I used to work for an airline, and this fee is totally assinine. "Put the fare in the chair, put the meat in the seat". You ALWAYS let someone go early standby, there was no question about it. Too many things can happen that can "cascade" later. Shows you what happens when marketing majors and bean counters try to run flight operations.
My argument exactly! What diff did it make if someone takes that empty seat at departure time. It was still going to b empty, if you didnt. No sane person is going to walk up at the last second and buy it for $500 or what ever. As a gate agent, I wanted to move connections to earlier flights for that very reason of a "cascade" event. And dont give me that argument of "supply and demand". I hated that when a Sup or fellow agent would say thats the reason we collect fees. No. Its just to raise more revenue thats all.
(v)e Same 0
Thank you, my sentiments exactly! Now can you please explain this to the rest of the "experienced" folks hanging out around here?
Mike Mohle 5
You would think they would want to get as many people on the earlier flights as possible, as delays cascade throughout the day and more people have connection issues. Had the same problem on SWA, same situation. This is very stupid policy and shortsighted. Oh well, those MBA geniuses at the airlines are obviously smarter than their customers--just ask them!
preacher1 2
And regarding the title of the article, we are the ones who may pay it. Airlines not so dumb if they can collect it and get by with it.
Normally you pay extra for a flexible ticket. If you wouldn't charge you that extra 75$ at the gate, no one would buy a flexible ticket any more.
Dee Lowry 2
The trouble is that almost every American traveller wants it all-- fast, ultra-safe, comfortable air travel that's on time with friendly service at a very attractive price. The economic reality is that this combination of factors DOES NOT EXIST! If there were a way to do all of this and keep prices very low and stay in business for the long term, don't you think some genius in a suit would suggest that their airline give it a whirl? In truth, better treatment DOES's called Business's just not available at the low costs people want. The one thing travellers will not compromise is safety. Overall, the vast majority of American consumers would prefer lousy service, cramped conditions and putting up with airline employees, who are definately overworked, underpaid and put up with the travelling public "Flying Entitlement Attitude". 80% agree with this logic because it's already proven by purchasing habits. Virtually every complaint is cost related. Smiles are free but very expensive. Poorly compensated employees don't smile much. Hiring ( and retaining ) friendly, professional ticketing staff, trustworthy and careful baggage handlers, and competant caring Flight Crews is one of the biggest single costs an airline faces. Better people cost more. The next time you go into a low cost travel website and find the cheapest fare to your holiday destination, understand that you are indirectly ensuring the ( lack of ) quality of your service. If customers were all willing to pay 75% more for their flights you would see a proportional level of quality improvement. After all that said...reality checks in once again! NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Therefore, the "Complaint Circle" continues to go round and round.
You nailed it right on the head, Dee. I was in the biz for 28 years as a customer service agent for both CO and AWA/US. The lower the fare the bitchier the customer. Even tho policy was to charge a change fee for pax to go earlier same day, I usually waived it because in my view it didnt matter when that empty seat flew between 2 points. 7am or 12noon it was still an empty seat. And as for smiles. I loved my job, and for the most part didnt have a problem helping out customers. However! When a customer came up and was snappy/demanding. Well they got the same treatment back. My managers always said, any complain against me, I was usually right. Get ugly with me, and I go strait to the book, and follow policy. Be nice? And I can bend the rules. As a former instructor at AWA I always told employees. Policy is actually guidelines. Use some common sense, and everything will go smoothly.
Leenydld 3
A couple of years ago we had to cut our vacation short due to an approaching hurricane. SWA changed our flight free of charge in anticipation of airport closure & flight cancellations. Sucked for us, but SWA was great.
The problem is that a lot of people buy a later flight, which is cheaper, with the intent of standing by for an earlier flight, which was more expensive, and the one they actually want to fly on. This is called revenue dilution and if people didn't do it so often, there wouldn't be a standby fee.
Read the title and assumed this article was about Spirit..
I remember working at US when they started this, at the time it was $25
There have been times where I have arrived at the airport for a flight and there was an earlier flight than mine to the same destination. I stayed on the same flight, only to arrive on the other end to see that my bags took the earlier one. So much for the argument of keeping passengers and their bags on the same airplane.
I'm sure it happens occasionally, but they try to avoid intentionally doing it when possible. Sometimes it might be done because of insufficient cargo space on the intended flight.
Welcome to US Air! I just love it when the later flight ends up being delayed for hours and its a delay that the the airline knew about/should have known about. Of course, it would have made sense to clear you at the first opportuity but thant's not how US Air thinks. This is why I avoid US Air whenever possible.
Policy is and has been, to charge for an earlier departure. It used to be, you could standby same day w/o an fee. While working down here in CRP for COex/UAX CRP-IAH I would usually waive the fee for an earlier flight, since we had 11 flts a day to IAH. If say the 1pm flight was oversold, and the 11am had 10 empty seats on it, or we were expecting IAH weather issues, you bet I was going to move people earlier an no fee. However if I got a pissy demanding customer, woops! The policy book kicked in, thats $25 to stdby plz. A smile goes a long way, IN BOTH DIRECTIONS! Customer is nice, then youre Damn right I will be too. Get nasty? Then dont expect much. Many a time, I would come right out and ask a customer. "And what part of yelling at me, makes you think it will make things better?" That usually threw them off and they would back down. BTW, I hated working next to another agent who would not waive the fee, piss off the customer and then fellow agent would look at me and say "I dont know why they always yell at me?" Uh Duh?! This flight has 20 empty seats on it, and IAH is expecting thunderstorms. Get the people out of here so we dont have to worry about their connections!
preacher1 1
Sometimes you just got to look at the big picture. I used to fly DAL occasionally between LIT and GSO. As meeting times had been known to go long, I always booked a later filght. If meeting wound up early, I never had a problem making the earlier flight out of GSO but there were times that the earlier ATL-LIT leg was full and I would have had to have waited in ATL anyway. I'd rather wait in GSO than ATL. I quit doing GSO and DAL started charging anyway. I guess they feel a purpose but I can't see any sense in it due to filling seats and the possibility of a cascade for whatever reason later
Cactus732 1
That's odd. I was in Orlando on Monday and did the same thing, listed on standby for an earlier flight to Charlotte, and US Airways didn't charge me. It may have been because the flight was full and they figured I probably wouldn't get on it. In my experience I have only been charged for a confirmed seat on an earlier flight, if I was willing to be standby then that didn't come with the $75 charge. I agree that some of the policies are ridiculous, another example I was flying from White Plains, NY to Orlando through Philadelphia. I decided that I wanted to spend the night in Philly with family, but to change to the next mornings PHL-MCO flight was $948. That was ludicrous given that I could have gone onto the US Airways website and bought another ticket for less than half of that.
max lyons 1
I don't get it. You paid the money for the original ticket anyways, why would you need to pay an extra $75 if the flight is only half full. I'd give them $30 which sounds reasonable: they get to fill another seat on a half empty plane AND has a seat later on open up in case it gets overbooked (like usual). $75 for a half empty plane that's going to lose money anyways is completely asinine.
ren crete 1
Should any major airline decide to really address the problem, they would simply create a standby class of ticketing for every flight. A person simply buys a "standby" ticked restricted to a departure and destination airport pair. Paying an advertised fare would "gurantee" passage whereas the standby ticket would be a maybe. I would purchase "standby" at the normal discounted rates simply for the ability/previledge of standby travel. My life events change hour to hour, I do not have the flexibility of planning that 5 days from now at 4pm I can be at a given airport.
Let's see....that's number 126 for reasons not to fly (anymore). Glad I'm retired from this business.
AGREED! Makes no sense.
blake1023 1
I think Spirit's "canned wine" is pretty funny! No sure who would buy canned wine for $7.

It makes perfect sense to charge a "change fee". First, it’s not the airlines' fault that you decided to get to the airport early. Second, the airlines are not in the business of dealing with indecisive people who can't plan or make up their mind on when and where they want to travel. If everyone changed their reservations around the airlines would have NO CLUE how many seats are available on any given flight. So how can an airline sell tickets when everyone is changing their reservations?
preacher1 1
I guess there are some that would try and take advantage of a free change and earlier flight, but as I said below, I always had to book a late flight because I never knew how long a meeting would last. My connection was thru ATL, and it was nice to get the earlier flight if their were seats available and just with carry on.What difference does it make to the airline if they have empty seats on a 215 or 330. Personally, I would think it would be nice if that capacity was available to them later if something in the way of wx came along that just threw all schedules to blazes. A nice escape valve. Past that, empty seat is empty seat.
blake1023 1
Well the industry is changing. Any more now you'd be hard pressed to find an empty seat, on any flight! Airlines are trying to up their aircraft utilization. Reduce the number the airplanes to save on aircraft leases, mx, fuel and other costs. So the airlines have to reduce the frequencies into certain cities. The airlines can’t please everyone, sorry.
preacher1 1
Unfortunately, you are correct. You can't really blame the airlines though in trying to utilize their equipment. It ain't like it was back in they day when they would be mandated to run a route by the CAB, and abandonment was just as bad as tring to do a rail or truck deal with the old ICC. They didn't get in a hurry. Now, it's here today and gone tomorrow or vice versa. My last pax trip last year, I booked 2 months in advance, and got a total of 16 changes from DAL during that time. Most were minor, but then there was an entire flight change, minor changes on that one and then another complete change and tweaking. That makes it hard to plan, partularly if it's just a one niter out and back.
Yazoo 1
Most people fail to notice that since deregulation, the airlines responsibility shifted from the DOT and passenger to the stock holder. Certainly customer satisfaction is a priority. And compliance with the DOT is self-fulfilling. But the emphasis shifts to the financial benefit of satisfaction or compliance. This is not only true to the airline industry but with any corporation once they move from the private to public sector.
Didn’t the author, Mr Reed, receive exactly what he paid for? Did he not pay a rate for the 3:40 flight? What “fare” ticket did he purchase? USAirways has 16 different coach fares all with their unique rules and restrictions.
Moving your ticket to an empty seat on another flight may have no cost to the airline, but it has value. In this case $75.
Say that open seat on the 2:50 flight was a center seat in a 3x3 seating. What about the value to the passengers in the isle and window who would have had some extra space and now must fight for the inboard arm rest.
Would you move a coach fare into first class just because the seat is empty? You will if you are moving a high value customer. The author even wrote that that the fee is often waived for premium passengers. Maybe that agent was already planning to allow a premium passenger to transfer to the early flight but only if they could not sell the $75 transfer to someone else. That open seat also has value to the employee who may be using a non-revenue pass trying to get to work. What about a military person trying to get home on leave after putting themselves in harm’s way? Most airlines will allow military to standby for earlier flights if seats are available.
Take the airline picture out of the equation. Why do gas stations normally raise rates on Thursday nights? Because more people fill up on Fridays for the weekend. It’s the same gas, it’s already in the underground tanks, yet they charge more.
Airlines aren’t doing anything different from other industries.
Mr Reed, I’d rather see a service man or woman get home early, because you don’t think that you’re worth $75/hour.
It is no secret that the airlines have difficulty making a profit. I think this is partly due to the nonsensical pricing structure that the airlines utilize. I weigh 150 pounds and pay extra because my checked bag is overweight. The person behind me weighs 300 pounds, carries on thirty more pounds and pays no extra fee. The formula that works is total pounds times miles traveled. Probably not in my lifetime.
I would like to invite you to acquire a defective metabolism so that you, too, can enjoy the unfair privilege of obesity.
No shit, you weigh 150 pounds and yet somehow the fatass can manage to pack less clothing than you? You trolls with overstuffed bags are the reason the airlines started charging that fee to begin with.
This happen to me a few years ago and I too elected to wait the exrta 2 hours for my scheduled flight. Turns out that my flight was overbooked and they had to ask for volunteers to take the next flight. I walked up to the counter and preceeded to berate them about their short sightedness.
Like Warren Buffet said, "Never invest in an Airline company"... you start wondering why now? :-)
so true I fully support this view.
Charge for any service and the customer decides to take it or not. but to get on an empty seat, is actually beneficial for the airline, so should not be charged. Especially in that example as described.
sparkie624 1
It is the day of stupid fees... Once at work we were talking about different stupid fees for them to charge... Window Shade usage Fees, Use of LAV Fee, Seat Recline Fee.... LOL, they have plenty of ideas to get more stupid.
You are assuming the airlines executive are the best in the business world and my observation over many years is they are not, hence the poor investment opportunity. You make a valid point, fill the empty seat.
preacher1 1
They are filling them and making a little extra change while they're at
SouthWest doesn't charge for flight change.
Southwest doesn't charge change fees (for standby or in general), but they will charge you the difference between what you paid and the current fare of the flight you are trying to standby on. However, you can sometimes talk the Southwest agent into waiving the fare difference, particularly if you have frequent flier status.
sparkie624 2
I knew someone was going to mention the Cattle Herders. I wouldn't get on another one of their flights for nothing in the world.
Mike Mohle 0
They charge the difference between what your ticket value is and the current day value.
On my last flight, I left when I damn well felt like it and the 204 pounds of baggage didn't cost me a dime extra. I had the best seat in the house, the one in the Left Front, and the only security was the .357 magnum in my briefcase. There was a gorgeous redheaded flight attendant sitting in the R/front and she kept my coffee mug full. We had to behave though, cause the kids were asleep in the second row, but I did get a kiss and a fondle with each refill. The best part? That would be that I beat the door to door time it would have taken to fly commercial by over 2 hours. Whee Hah!
preacher1 1
Ain't it sweet.LOL
Just last week I paid 358.00 round trip from Ontario, CA to Phoenix Az.
a flight time of 55 minutes. I travel with a large tech case full of tools, and as A GOLD SA Iv'e never had to pay a baggage fee, but on the return the Agent at PHX
US AIRWAYS, said sorry over weight by 3.5 lbs. that will be 90 BUCKS !. I explained that I just flew there with no weight charge, sorry they missed it... PAY or move a few pounds, Then I asked if there was an availble seat in first for an upgrade charge,
yes there is, thats 39.00 dollars then the 3.5 pounds are free !! What drives me crazy is that the @#$@*$! agent didnt even suggest that, just out came has hand for a credit card. GOOD LUCK getting my bussiness American / US Air, I'd rather go out of my way and stay on United............
Steve1822 -2
It's all about money. No matter you arrive early and wish to get on a earlier flight. The fare has been paid. Whether an empty seat leaves early with or without you in it vs. your original flight is moot point..........other than the airlines make an extra buck. The do it becuase they get away with it.


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