Serial airline leaker JonNYC flags that a memo has gone out from American Airlines to travel agents, available on its SalesLink platform, warning them that the carrier is cracking down on a variety of ticketing techniques, including hidden city ticketing and ‘churning’.
Over the summer I wrote about American directly investigating customers for ticketing practices that violate the airline’s rules, and more recently confronting customers at the airport and demanding passengers pay up for their past sins against the airline.
Now they’re warning travel agents. Here’s the memo:
An update on Booking and Ticketing PracticesIssued: 01/26/2021
Issued: January 26, 2021American Airlines will begin monitoring common booking practices which may result in an unfavorable outcome.
These practices are identified as:
- Hidden City
- Inactive Segments
- Marriage Segment
- Origin and Destination (O&D) Manipulation
Further detail on these offenses can be found on our addendum to the Governing Travel Agency Agreement (GTAA) for ARC accredited agencies and the IATA Passenger Sales Agency Agreement for international agencies. It is important that you familiarize yourself with these unfavorable practices as it will help prevent the issuance of future debit memos.
Additionally, please be aware that automation will be rolling out in phases to help us identify these types of occurrences and detailed remarks will be entered in the SSR OTHS Field. Our first phase will identify excessive churning, and messaging will be placed in the booking as follows:
SSR OTHS YY RIPA/EXCESSIVE CHURNING
Future phase messaging:
SSR OTHS YY RIPA/HIDDEN CITY PARTIALLY USED ITINERARY
SSR OTHS YY RIPA/MARRIED SEGMENT VIOLATION
SSR OTHS YY RIPA/ORIG DEST VIOLATION CLASS NO AVAILABLE
SSR OTHS YY RIPA/INACTIVE SEG REMOVED FOR CHECK IN
We understand these unfavorable practices may occur due to confusion or misunderstanding of American’s policy. We hope this advanced notification will be helpful with your future bookings.
As always, we appreciate your attention to this matter and thank you for your business.
American Airlines will sell tickets – and even award travel – on the basis of ‘married segments’. They’ll make a discount fare available, for instance, Oklahoma City – Dallas – London that won’t be available on the non-stop. Pricing the lower price (in miles or money) and then dropping the Oklahoma City – Dallas segment is against American’s rules.
So is buying a ticket from Miami to Dallas to Oklahoma City and just getting off in Dallas, skipping the Oklahoma City flight, because Miami – Oklahoma City via Dallas is cheaper than buying the non-stop.
Here churning refers to cancelling and rebooking the same itinerary, for instance to circumvent ticketing time limits or hold inventory without buying it.
There’s not a lot of revenue in airline tickets. With the government doling out cash for the airline to keep everyone on payroll staff need something to do! However the complexity of the ticketing system turns customers into enemies which suggests to me something is wrong in the underlying way that airlines sell seats.
No one yet has really disrupted that in a big way, however. And as long as government airports lease out prime gates to incumbent players and exclude new entrants, and as long as slots at congested airports are gifted to incumbents and keep out new competitors, it’s likely to be a long time before someone does.
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