If you thought I was being hyperbolic when I explained Air Canada’s major devaluation of elite status as the airline thinking their elites were over-entitled and they were determined to do something about it…
Thread Tripping highlights PR comments from the airline that make my point for me.
Truly, I don’t recall ever seeing such revealing honesty from an airline. We should simultaneously applaud the lack of spin, and avoid the airline.
Unfortunately for our friends up North, their options for a network carrier are quite limited.
I’m going to be blunt: we are not a charity. …It’s not a secret that we would prefer our customers sitting in the [business class] cabin to have paid for it.
And the reason why they don’t want elites sitting in empty premium cabin seats:
1) It cheapens the [business class] product – I will again reference our European and Asian competitors who have very tight access policies to their premium cabins, and point out how highly valued they are, especially compared to our American competition – ever wonder why F fares are so cheap on US carriers?
2) It sets an expectation. If there’s an expectation that for >50% of the time you can sit there without paying for it, why would you ever be incentivised to do so?
An airline is decidely not a charity. The reason to offer upgrades is to incentivize loyal business — choosing your otherwise-commodity product over someone else’s, and capturing an increasing portion of your customers’ wallet share.
Even Delta has recently added a meaningful international upgrade benefit for their top elites.
Air Canada is candid in saying they don’t believe they need to do that. If their customers are going to buy their tickets and fly them anyway, they want to train their customers to buy the more expensive tickets rather than hoping to get upgraded for free.
I suspect, however, that the universe of people choosing to buy international economy rather than business class tickets who could have bought business class but decided to roll the dice in hopes of sitting there for less money is rather small.
Folks who buy business class do so to guarantee themselves a seat in business class. Either they’re spending someone else’s money, or the amount of money doesn’t much matter.
I don’t deny that this hypothetical customer exists, just that it’s hard to imagine basing policy around such a person.
Usually calling your customers the problem is a gaffe, not a strategy. Air Canada should be applauded for their honesty, at least.