At this morning’s Global Flight conference, Randy Petersen reminded the audience of a change that American AAdvantage put forward in May 2008 to begin imposing a $5 for booking award tickets on its website.
This announcement — which was to go into effect the following month — set off a firestorm.
The old argument was that reservation centers were more costly than web, an airline wanted to (a) push its reservations online to lower costs and (b) charge a fee for the ‘extra’ service of having a person handle the booking.
This proposed change turned that on its head. And it’s worse than Spirit imposing a fee for buying paid airfare everywhere except the airport ticket counter… because it actually served as a tax on those who had accumulated miles in a past, a fee to redeem a free ticket.
And in fact American didn’t wind up implementing the fee. June 22 came and the fee just wasn’t there. There wasn’t ever an announcement (and many members who heard about the fee assumed it was there, others just assumed they were waiting until American got the IT right).
American decided to back off. But they decided not to tell anyone. And they gave up a huge PR win in the process..
- To listen to their members
- To reduce fees
They had already relented on the change. Why not claim credit for it? But sometimes it isn’t easy to publicly say you’re sorry.
Ironically, US Airways Dividend Miles has such a fee now, and it’s more than just $5!
Their award process fee (waived for Gold elites and higher) is:
- $25 U.S. except Hawaii and Canada
- $35 Mexico and the Caribbean
- $50 Hawaii and other international
No doubt one of the things that AAdvantage will be looking at, as it aligns policies with Dividend Miles and prepares to combine programs is its fees.
American backed off its fee, US Airways came later and imposed one, which is often how these things work. United once tried to impose a Saturday night stay requirement for booking a saver award ticket. There was an uproar and then the airline backed down. Northwest came in after United, imposed the same thing on its Worldperks members, and that change stuck.
Companies don’t like to publicly admit when they’re wrong, but they could earn a lot of goodwill from members when they do it.