walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

The Cost of Flying

I read an amazing analysis of frequent flyer programs some years ago, back when I was still trying to figure out whether those were worth participating in. The analysis was complex, but basically came down to: these are mostly unfunded liabilities for the airlines; to the extent they have a cost associated with them, it's barely/not enough to cover the meal on the free flight.

A recent article on MSNBC (Frequent Criers) reminded me of the joy that is FlyerTalk. Over there, people were bitching (as I am wont to do) about the stupidity of fees -- just freaking raise the fares, guys! In response to which someone pointed out that Fees Apply to Frequent Flyers.


So now, you have to pay for your bags on your free flight. One way to cut down on that unfunded liability, hunh?

ETA: Same general topic, different aspect. Most airlines charge if you want to change a ticket (depending on the ticket, whether it's fully refundable or whatever, the specific charge may vary). If you got a cheap enough ticket, and the fee is high enough, you don't get anything of value out if you don't fly. Southwest, by contrast, has no fee if you change even one of the non-refundable, super-cheap web deals -- you get a credit of that many dollars towards a future Southwest flight. And yet, Southwest never seems to overbook. (I'm sure it has happened.) What's up with that?

My current theory is this is because you can't book a Southwest flight except through Southwest so they actually know how many seats they've sold at any given time. Unlike the legacy carriers, who you can book via Expedia, travel agents, etc. and who codeshare through other airlines and crap like that. They may have no mortal clue how many tickets there are on a given flight until that flight is loaded. Hard to get _that_ consistently right, hunh?

I should double check this SWA doesn't overbook theory. Maybe I've just never encountered it.

ETA2: Over on the Southwest Blog, they claim their denial of boarding rate is in the bottom half of the industry and point a link to the Dec 2008 DOT report. Having looked that report over carefully, while Southwest has a lot of things going for it, denial of boarding rate _is not_ one of them (JetBlue, by contrast, is phenomenal). Their complaint rate on denial of boarding is shockingly low compared to other carriers, which makes me wonder what, precisely, is going on.

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