A FlyerTalker recently posed a fascinating question, “What if there was an initiative to boycott paid advance seat selection that gained massive/viral traction?” Alongside a few especially jaded dismissals of the very notion, a thought-provoking debate about the nature of consumer leverage and the laws of supply and demand ensued.
FlyerTalk member MasterGeek raised an interesting issue: What if passengers simply refused to pay just one of the new fees airlines seem to invent by the day? Would airline executives realize the error of their ways or would consumers eventually lose their resolve causing an inevitable return to business as usual?
“What if there was an initiative to boycott paid advance seat selection that gained massive/viral traction? Will airlines stop charging for advance seat selection?” the user queried. “To me charging for seat selection is like to making travelers bid against each other for the desirable seats, but if travelers collude and constitute a collective collaborative bloc, perhaps there will be change.”
The consensus of those responding on the forums overwhelmingly leaned toward the “probably will never know” camp. A few FlyerTalkers also took a decidedly more Ayn Rand view of daring to question one’s high-ranking corporate betters in airline boardrooms.
In fact, there are already a handful of efforts on social media to protest unfair fees levied on travelers. The online group “Kill Resort Fees” urges travelers not only to avoid hotels charging often hidden resort fees but also encourages guests to dispute the charges with credit card companies, take hotels to court and file complaints with the Fair Trade Commission (FTC). The Twitter group ExitRowForTheTall is more about shaming airlines for charging taller passengers extra fees to sit in exit rows and extra legroom seats but occasionally stops just short of advocating boycotts of certain carriers. Based on the growing number of travelers subject to airline seat selection fees and hotel resort fees, it isn’t clear how much headway either group is making.
With a few notable historic exceptions, consumer boycotts haven’t been especially successful (if they were effective, then The Simpsons might have been canceled decades ago). In the age of social media, however, joining a boycott can also mean easily connecting with like-minded peers. While expecting consumers to remain disciplined is a big ask, networking with those who share your same concerns can be a remarkably powerful way to effect change.
Is a boycott over seat selection fees worth the effort or are consumers already getting exactly what they wanted in rock bottom fares with a slew of a la carte fees? The at- times contentious debate (and a bonus discussion of “Newton’s Law of the Online Forum”) continues here.
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