Few things on the trip are more maddening than those high rates to change non-refundable tickets.
Do you need to leave earlier, stay longer or postpone your trip? That will be $ 200 per person, plus any difference in fare, on the largest airlines in the country. excluding Southwest Airlines. And that is only for flights within the United States. Exchange rates are as high as $ 500 for international flights. In many cases, the fare deletes the value of the ticket.
Airlines often work with travelers with compelling cases, but an airline seems to be considering a broad policy change when it comes to ticket changes.
Delta Air Lines has been giving clues about a more flexible exchange policy since its investor day in Atlanta in December, when a senior executive said the airline is studying ways to “address flexibility differently than this industry has had. in the past, “and CEO Ed Bastian provided more color, although cryptically and with few details, in an interview with USA TODAY in Las Vegas last week.
Bastian, who was in Las Vegas as the first CEO of the airline to deliver a The keynote address at the gigantic CES technology fair said that the Atlanta-based airline is focusing on ways to gain customer confidence beyond being a reliable airline, which has dominated based on its DOT rating and other metrics .
“When he says he wants to be seen as a reliable consumer brand, he questions all interactions with customers and where there are vulnerabilities to be considered reliable,” he said. “When you ask that question, ‘Where are those vulnerabilities?, Clearly the rates are one of the factors that criticize us. … Then we have to think: are they your best ways to handle that?’ ‘
And that effort includes a look at rates and policies, including exchange rates, he said.
“How, with the exchange rates or other rates that you have in the process, how do you make them something that people can understand more, why are they there and perhaps provide greater value along with this, or change the structure? ” Bastian said.
You don’t hear airline executives talk a lot about fares, which have become an important money generator for airlines, except to defend them. But Bastian recognized the widespread feeling of negative travelers about some of the industry rates.
“When you think about our rate structure, I think there are rates there, and exchange rates are part of that, that people feel are punitive.”
Bastian, careful not to conflict with regulations that prohibit the discussion of future prices, repeatedly stressed that no exchange policy decisions have been made or a broader look at how Delta shows its rates and fares to travelers for be as transparent as possible and gain more traveler confidence
“I am not suggesting we make changes,” he said. “We do not know”.
The comments of the airline on the day of the investor would suggest otherwise, at least on the front of the exchange policy.
Eric Phillips, senior vice president of price and revenue management for the airline, said the airline has a group of customers and employees working together on a project to see how Delta can “change the change.”
“We can be better by providing flexibility,” he said. “Look, we recognize that life happens.” The meetings are rescheduled. Dance recitals are important. And yes, sometimes the practice of T-ball is like a Game 7. Therefore, our goal is to make sure that we provide our employees with the tools and policies they need so that they can respond to customers with justice and empathy. they want . ”
He said the airline plans to share more details this year, but did not provide a schedule.
What might seem like a change in Delta’s exchange policy is the big question, of course.
“Who knows what it really means in practice?” Said Brett Snyder, a former airline employee who runs a travel service called Cranky Concierge and writes the blog Cranky Flier.
If Delta is simply more transparent about exchange rates and why it charges them, that won’t benefit travelers, he said. But if you change your policies or rates, for example, by giving up any rate difference or changing the rate, “That’s a big problem.”
The big dilemma for Delta is money. Delta raised $ 615 million in ticket exchange rates in the first nine months of 2019, only surpassed by American Airlines, according to the Federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Revenue from the Delta exchange rate for all of 2018: $ 694 million. To put those figures in perspective, the low-cost airline Allegiant Air’s total Quarterly revenue in the last quarter was $ 436.5 million.
“Can you find a way in which you think that it really won’t be a negative income?” Snyder said.
Snyder said that airline fares tend to go in only one direction: up. And those high exchange rates in particular force travelers who cannot pay refundable tickets to make “bad” decisions, such as not changing a flight when a child becomes ill.
“You’re like ‘God, I want to, but I can’t pay that money.’ ”
Southwest Airlines has long argued that they do not charge exchange fees (it does charge travelers the difference in fare since they booked their ticket) or the baggage fees are more than compensated for the business they earn for their lack of fares.