Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Airplane Rant

The problem with airlines is they take advantage of you when they can and all with a smile. I wanted to change my flight arrangements last minute because of a business trip. I had 2 different airlines that I was working with. United and Southwest. Southwest was much better, but both were ridiculous.

First, the United story. Tomorrow I'm flying from Omaha to Denver, to Jackson Hole and back on Sunday to Omaha. I'm in California right now. I'm scheduled to get back into Omaha at 1 AM and leave at 6 AM. I figured, why not just fly to Denver and catch the 2nd flight. Or, why not just fly to Jackson Hole direct from California tonight and fly back to Omaha on Sunday. I called United to discuss "options". I was willing to pay some fee for the change in fair. Guess what the best "deal" they could get me? An increase of $1500!!!! Why, because everything had to be rebooked on same day fares. The entire trip. Event though 3 out of the 4 legs were the same if I caught the plane in Denver, the whole trip needed to be rebooked. Even if I made it to Jackson Hole on my own, the Sunday trip back had to be rebooked as a 1 way fare! What a joke. The nice guy in India that I was talking to, Neil, was very pleasant the whole time, but could do nothing. When they have you over a barrell, they sure stick it to you.

Second, Southwest. So, I'm sitting here in Orange County airport waiting for my 6 PM flight to Vegas to catch the 8 PM flight to Omaha. I had an idea...what if I caught an earlier flight to Vegas and had an 4 hour lay over there instead of OC? I could at least make a quick trip to a casino and have a little excitement. So, I went to the Southwest coutner and asked if the 4 PM flight was available. It was. I also expected to pay a change fee, I did. It was going to be $49. Perfect. But, since I was also going to Omaha, she had to rebook the entire fare and it turned out to be $195. I said I'm just wanting to go early on an plane that isn't full and it costs about the same as the whole original ticket. They said not an option. We have to rebook the whole trip. The lady was nice, and 2 other people I asked because I didn't give up, but the answer was still the same. Moronic!

So, here's my solution. Airlines should offer reticketing memberships. If you purchase an annual membership, you're allowed to rebook at any time provided there is room on the plane and pay a small incremental fee, not the new fare. The only problem will occur when there isn't room on the plane, then you're just out of luck. But, if they can accodate you, and your a paying rebooking member, then you can rebook at a flat fee, not the current ticket price. Sounds too simple doesn't it. They can charge different memberships with different priveleges and this may become an additional profit center and customer retention tool.

Let me know if you have any good ideas for the airline industry to improve their value and service to us helpless flyers.