News And Notes For Saturday, May 4th 2013

It didn’t take long, but now all the major US carriers have raised the change fee for non-refundable domestic tickets from $150 to $200.  United started things off, and Delta, US Airways and American followed shortly thereafter.

Some fellow members of the blogosphere are commenting that this change makes American Airlines’ Choice Essential and Choice Plus fares an even better deal at $68 and $88, respectively.  Buyer beware, as $68 isn’t really $68 as I outlined here a month or so ago.

On the other side of the change fee spectrum….

Southwest makes a small but meaningful change to its cancelation policy, as detailed by MommyPoints.  It used to be that you could just not show up for a flight and Southwest would give you a travel credit.  Now you have to tell them first.  Not a complicated hurdle to overcome, and still much more generous than the other major US carriers.

Wandering Aramean details Frontier’s most recent changes, including that they’re going to charge customers that book through online travel agencies (OTAs) to carry-on a bag, while leaving it free for people who book directly with them.  They’re also further reducing mileage earning on OTA tickets from 50% to 25% and charging for in-flight beverages if you buy the cheapest tickets.

I understand why an airline wouldn’t want to pay outsize fees to an OTA.  And, I even agree with the logic to reduce the miles earned for such tickets.  As a general rule, I would expect infrequent fliers to use OTAs more frequently, thus the miles earned are not usually the driver for their choice (price is).  Those same infrequent travelers are probably more likely to have outsize luggage requirements, though I have no idea how much more likely that is.  So, most of these changes shouldn’t unwittingly affect the business traveler or frequent travelers, as I think they’ll adjust their behavior accordingly if more miles or free carry-on bags are important.

But, charging $2 for a beverage just strikes me as a dumb idea.  I’ve gotta think that significantly slows down beverage service on a flight.  And, if they’re accepting credit cards for those payments (I’m sure they are), then they have to overlay fees on that $2.

As Seth says, these changes aren’t likely to go over that well.  But, I’ve got to think that if they’re willing to drop mileage earning on OTAs from 50% to 25% they feel confident they can do it without much impact.  We just have to wait and see if they’re right.

Finally, the TSA has made PreCheck (one of my favorite travel pluses) more usable by notifying you when you print your boarding pass whether you’ve qualified for PreCheck on that specific flight.  I think I tend to have valued PreCheck a bit more highly than my fellow bloggers in the past, with one of the key concerns I”ve heard  was the unpredictable nature of PreCheck since you never knew for a specific flight whether you qualified thus couldn’t plan to head to the airport any later than you normally would.  This change seems to solve that issue.  The only peculiar item is that American Airlines was missing from the announcement (for now, only United, US Airways and Delta will show this indication on your boarding pass).

Hope you’re enjoying the weekend!

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