New airline rules will benefit customers


New rules going into effect in late August are poised to level the playing field for customers when they do business with the airlines. Here are some highlights of what’s to come:

  • No more bait and switch on ticket fares. You’ll be quoted an actual “fly out” price that includes all potential fees, not just the cheap fare that’s going to skyrocket if you check 2 bags or have to change your ticket down the road.
  • Cash refunds of baggage fees in the event of lost baggage. Here’s my take on this one: Did you know taxpayers are paying far more in additional costs for screening people at checkpoints than the airlines themselves make in fees? Maybe taxpayers should do a chargeback to the airlines because of all the additional expense they had to bear when the airlines went on their feeing frenzy!
  • No more massive fees if you make a clerical error while booking. The airlines will now allow you to cancel or change a ticket within 24 hours of booking without penalty.

The U.S. airline industry has been dealing for years with what I call “the curse of the MBAs.” I call it a curse because those who get advanced degrees in business don’t always have the experience to match. So they make decisions in a tunnel and don’t see the big picture.

In practice, that’s meant the full fare airlines came up with every gotcha possible to take advantage of the customer. MBAs saw fees as a way to get quick revenue, but they missed that when people feel they’ve been ripped off, they may choose to fly someone else next time.

I have a master’s degree in business, so I can make fun of MBAs. I say just treat others as you would want to be treated. The Golden Rule, right? If the airlines were to run that way, people would like them more and they might even be able to charge more dough.

Discount airlines like Southwest and JetBlue offer a counterpoint to this whole discussion. Southwest in particular has no baggage fees (up to 2 bags) and no changes fees on its reservations. That’s the way to really attract customers!

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