Have you seen those Southwest Airline commercials where the traveler is in court testifying against the "Big Airline" regarding $150 fees for the privilege of changing a ticket? The jury box and gallery, coincidentally populated with a high number Southwest workers, are abuzz with commentary about what a ripoff the change fee is and how Southwest would never stoop to fleecing its passengers in such a blatant manner. I thought the commercials clever, but didn't think much more about them because, as a Gold Medallion flier on Delta, I assumed I was immune to the fleecings. Boy, did I get a ride around the block on the reality bus.
I change flights with the frequency of Janet Napolitano wearing a dress; in other words, not often. More than 90% of my flying is work related, usually involving scheduled events with rock-solid dates. More likely than not, if I have to change a ticket, it is because a car company invites me to an event that backs up to another car event I am already attending. Then my flights must be adjusted to include the second event. Lucky me, though, I'm not the one handling the changes; the travel desks for the car companies involved do. I often have no clue what the tickets cost in the first place, nor do I know what making the needed changes add to the bottom line. I love being me!
So imagine my surprise when I tried to change my Delta ticket for a trip to South Florida this week, and I was told I'd have to cough up $150 for the right to change the flight in addition to the difference in the ticket price between the original ticket and its replacement. Let's see, carry the one, it would have cost me about $230. All I want to do is fly home two days later, not have sex with the flight attendant. $230 to add two days to my itinerary. That's $230 in addition to the $152 I had already paid. Can you say, ripoff? Yes, I thought you could.
I am not sure on what such a fee is based? Because I can book a flight from beginning to end online in about two minutes, I know the fee isn't based on the time it takes a Delta phone jockey to manually input the change unless he/she is pulling down about $4,500 an hour. Is it punishment for using the airline in the first place? Maybe it's some sort of fee for being fickle. I can tell you that usually when Delta has canceled a flight out from under me, I am lucky to get a $10 meal voucher. I sure would rather have $150 instead. And not a $150 voucher for future travel, but 150 bucks cash money, dinero, moola, scratch, bread, jack, greenbacks....
What a great business model that lets you collect $150 from customers who notify you days or weeks in advance that they want to alter their flying schedule, but leaves you nearly blameless if you change their schedule on the day of their flight. Sign me up.
I am constantly among friends who fly a lot. Name any airline in such a gathering and at least one person will talk about it as though it slept with his wife. Here's the truth about air travel: Fly any airline with any regularity and it will, sooner or later, screw you. It's your reward for being a good customer. I have clocked nearly 1.5 million miles on Delta. I know people with twice that many miles with an airline, but 1.5 million is still pretty good. Does Delta's ticket-change policy make me feel like a $5 hooker? Yes, indeed it does.
Beginning next week, Southwest is flying in and out of Greenville-Spartanburg Airport. They just may make a believer out of me.