It’s an odd world we live in today when it comes to the world of commercial aviation. Some airlines are offering a product that they don’t want you to buy. Think about that for just a minute.
And, it’s spreading.
By now, you’ve probably heard of Basic Economy. I’ve talked about it plenty. Airlines offer different, ahem, benefits with their Basic Economy fares. As a business traveler and a travel blogger, I can’t remember all of the nuances off the top of my head. Imagine what it’s like for folks who only fly once a year.
Airlines and online travel agencies have done a better job lately making sure customers know what type of fare they’re buying, and what the restrictions are. However, for the infrequent traveler, it’s bait and switch.
The general public is more aware that Spirit and Frontier are low-cost carriers. There’s a perception when you buy a ticket on a Spirit Airlines flight that you’re going to get….a seat. And, not much else.
The legacy carriers have spent decades building up networks and offering various benefits to customers. Most travelers have probably never boarded a United flight and been told they couldn’t use available overhead bin space. Without proper communication, passengers are left frustrated.
American, Delta and United don’t necessarily want you to board a flight and be surprised by the negative effects of a Basic Economy. They do, however, want Basic Economy to be so bad that you don’t buy it.
A price so appealing you try to book it. A product so bad you buy-up when presented with the truth. Fascinating.
On top of being supremely annoying to customers, it’s very interesting to me from a business perspective. What started amongst the US carriers now seems to be spreading overseas.
British Airways is the latest airline to offer a version of Basic Economy. Starting in December, if you purchase the cheapest fares British Airways has to offer, you’ll be assigned the last boarding group. Since you’re last to board the plane there isn’t likely to be any overhead bin space. No worry, some of those cheapest fares won’t let you bring a larger bag onboard anyway. In some cases, elite members may be able to avoid the penalty of boarding last.
In a recent appearance on Fox News, television anchor Eric Shawn asked me if passengers would be embarrassed or elated by being forced to board last.
I’m a business traveler who flies hundreds of thousands of miles a year. If I could avoid an extra 20 minutes crammed into a plane on every flight, I’d jump at it. Unfortunately, airline fees are the reason I board early. Years ago, the airlines decided we needed to pay for checked bags. This was done under the auspices of “unbundling” airline ticket pricing. After all, why should we pay for a checked bag if we didn’t plan to use that service?
The Final Two Pennies
The airlines trained customers to carry those bags onboard. That leads to a fight for overhead bin space. Ironically, it also leads to flight delays when bags have to be checked at the last-minute when overhead bin space runs out.
Will the stricter carry-on allowance of some Basic Economy fares cause customers to check more bags ahead of time? Or, will more customers pay more money to avoid Basic Economy? The airlines are counting on the latter.
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