american airlines 88.
(photo credit: )
These days, airlines have no shame in demanding from the passenger a multitude
of tasks to be performed prior to showing up for the flight. It goes hand in
hand with why consumers still need travel agencies and travel consultants to do
battle on their behalf.
A recent snafu happened with Ryanair, the
low-cost European airline, which must have assumed its clients are the most
gullible on this planet. Already threatening to charge fliers to use the
bathrooms on the plane, they recently introduced the new requirement that every
passenger must print his boarding pass prior to arriving at the airport. They
pointed out ever so politely that failure to comply will entail a fine of
approximately $50 per passenger. This scam had been operating for some time
until an intelligent passenger took the airline to court and won.
boarding pass is simply the piece of paper with your seat number and frequent
flier details that is presented at the gate before one enters the aircraft. Many
airlines encourage you to do Internet check in, thus putting the onus on the
passenger to provide all pertinent details. Most airline websites offer an
option to print the boarding pass; all explain that it can also be collected at
the airport. Not one except Ryanair had the chutzpah to demand payment for
Fortunately justice is not that blind. A wise judge in Spain ruled
that it’s illegal for the airline to charge fliers for not printing their own
boarding passes. Under international air travel agreements, Ryanair can neither
demand passengers turn up at the airport with a boarding pass, nor penalize them
if they do not. The judge voided the contractual clause in which Ryanair demands
the passenger bring the printed boarding pass.
Ryanair plans to appeal
the ruling, calling it an “unfair penalty” that the airline must print the
boarding pass. Got to love their moxie.
AMERICAN AIRLINES is trying a
different way to enrage both customers and travel agents. Airlines pay to appear
in the reservation systems of both online and brick and mortar travel agencies.
Starting at $2 per segment, the global distribution systems offer consumers and
travel agents an unbiased view of all airlines that choose to
So when you go to a site like Kayak or your local travel
agent, and request a flight from London to New York, all the airlines will
appear. The information can be shown according to time of departure or specific
airline and it can be categorized to show only nonstop flights or those with a
stopover. It can be programmed to show the lowest fare first or only show
What it will not do is discriminate against any
American Airlines has decided it wants to be special. It doesn’t
want to pay so much for this unbiased viewing. It’s using its massive inventory
as clout to demand a substantial reduction. It has decided it will force the
consumer to go to its site to book his flight; if not booked with it directly,
the customer may pay more if booking elsewhere.
There are three
international global distribution systems: Amadeus, Sabre and
All travel agencies use one or more of them. The Internet
sites that so many consumers know, be they Orbitz or Expedia, Kayak or Side
Step, usually have a strong connection or ownership tie with one of the three.
So once American pulled its fares from Orbitz, Expedia retaliated and kicked it
off its site. Sabre moved its flights to the bottom of each search. Lawyers are
filing briefs; lawsuits are pending. Neither side has backed down.
reinforces – in my admittedly biased outlook – why consumers still need travel
agencies, be they online or on Main Street.
Three simple reasons: 1.
Quick and easy comparison of not just fares but schedules on dozen of airlines
at one glance. It’s not just fares, it’s schedules.
If you need to arrive
by noon, and go only to an airline site, you won’t see the other airlines that
will meet your needs.
2. Flexible date searches. Most airline sites do a
flexible date search over three to seven days. Online sites like Travelocity
perform the search over a 10-month period.
Travel agents are able to
search up to 11 months.
3. Multi airline itineraries. If you’re flying
from LA to San Francisco, you don’t need more than one airline to transport you.
But when flying from Tel Aviv to Chicago, a quick search with any travel agent
will offer not just a single airline that flies the route, but also a
combination of airlines. Go to Delta’s site and you’ll only find Delta flights,
no mention of EL AL and Jet Blue, or British Airways and American
The conclusion is simple: If American Airlines ends up selling
its fares the same way that Southwest does, only on its site, you’ll be spending
a lot more time simply looking for an American ticket. In addition, you’ll
probably end up spending more too.The writer is CEO of Ziontours,
For questions and comments, e-mail him at