Delta & Spirit Airlines Sales Tactics Under Fire

 In Chicago, Travel

rafat-on-todayFollowing a post on hate-selling tactics in the travel industry, Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali appeared Tues 8/18/15 on an NBC Today segment that criticized some of the upselling tactics of Delta and Spirit airlines. The concern is whether Delta and Spirit airlines are in fact shaming people into spending more money to get a better seat, board earlier, etc. rather than just dealing with the ‘economy’ class tickets as they come.

WATCH the Today Show’s segment and decide for yourself.

Delta warns that travelers who purchase its Basic Economy fares will be the last to board and the final passengers to access overhead bin space, and Spirit’s practice of offering low fares and then using “passive aggressive” tactics to prod travelers to tack on and pay extra for every basic service in sight, including seat assignments and checking a bag. If you’ve experienced this ‘alert’ when booking a flight, share your opinion about this sales tactic with us on Twitter @SmartCars1 using hashtag #airlineshaming

It’s no surprise that consumers are taking offense to this since the airlines have been piling  a-la-carte fees for everything from head phones to TV shows and even specialty drinks (including non-alcoholic) for years now and people are fed up with paying more and more for things that used to be included in a basic airfare.

But when you go to Delta’s website, they address the new ‘changing experience’ by saying, “We are investing in improvements throughout the customer experience for greater comfort and continued productivity. It is our goal to provide customers with more choices, enabling them to find the one that best fits their travel needs.” Delta also has a variety of new ‘classes’ such as Delta Comfort+ which offers upgraded ‘amenities’ such as dedicated overhead space, complimentary alcoholic beverages, premium snacks on longer flights and extra legroom. The site also states that if you purchase a basic economy ticket you cannot add other ‘upgrade’ products later. “No, Basic Economy caters to customers who, first and foremost, want a great value. By purchasing a Basic Economy fare, customers forgo flexibility and are not permitted to upgrade.” This is sounding less and less like improvements of the customer experience and more and more like strong arming people into buying more amenities. To add insult to injury, they are selling these amenities in packages rather than allowing customers’ to buy individual choices such as overhead space seats with extra legroom.

Spirit Airlines has deployed a similar approach by offering separate a la carte fees for nearly everything above basic transportation (which your ticket does cover!). According to a recent Conde Naste Traveler article, to avoid the Passenger Usage Fee you must just buy your ticket at the closest airport otherwise Spirit charges a “Passenger Usage Fee” of between $8.99 and $16.99 each way when you book online or over the phone. (If you do book over the phone, there is an additional$10 Reservation Center Booking fee on top of that!) To avoid it, just go to the airport and buy the ticket at Spirit’s ticket counter. It’s treated like a convenience fee. You are being forced go out of your way (and spend money on gas and possibly parking) to avoid the fee.

Spirit will also allow customers to forego  advanced seat selection in order to save money and if you check in online and print your boarding pass at home, you save the $10 fee now charged to print your boarding pass at the airport. Caveat Emptor – especially when it comes to the “little things”!

So weigh in. Do you think the airlines tactics are ‘shaming’ you into paying more or is it just part of today’s competitive travel booking landscape and something you overlook and take in stride? Share with us on Facebook or Twitter now!


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