Most airlines now charge passengers to make reservations or change flights over the telephone, but when it comes to the collection of these fees, “full service” airlines are giving so-called “no-frills” carriers a run for their money.
Ultra-low-cost carriers have a reputation for charging customers fees for everything from printing boarding passes to choosing assigned seats, but when it comes to collecting a customer service fee to speak with a representative on the phone, major airlines are often more strict than their budget rivals. In nearly every case, passengers without elite status are much better off leaving their phones on airplane mode permanently and logging onto the web for most interactions with their airline.
Somewhat surprisingly, Jet2.com (the first airline to actually have .com rights in its name) is one of the few carriers that doesn’t charge passengers to book tickets or make itinerary changes over the phone. By contrast, Ryanair, the closest competitor to Jet2, adds a surcharge of nearly $30 to every booking made in person or over the phone. Meanwhile, budget carrier EasyJet charges fees of up to $20 for speaking to a customer service agent when booking, canceling or changing a flight.
Not to be outdone, British Airways tacks as much as a $15 surcharge on many telephone transactions. When it comes to collecting an extra charge for speaking to customers, however, these European carriers don’t have anything on North American airlines.
“The quickest and least expensive option is to visit ‘My Trips’ and make modifications yourself,” Spirit Airlines reminds passengers wishing to book or change air travel plans. “You can also speak to a Guest Service Agent at your airport or the Reservation Center, but there will be a higher modification charge when an agent makes the change for you because it costs us in time and resources.”
According to its website, American Airlines will charge passengers as much as $50 for “assistance by reservations.” Of course, most of those fees will be waived for travelers with elite status. The airline also notes that these fees apply only to voluntary changes to bookings and are not charged in cases of delayed or canceled flights.
“We charge a small fee for bookings made by our expert sales advisers who provide an additional level of support and advice,” a British Airways spokesperson explained to the Telegraph. “This contributes towards the cost of running this service.”
Beyond cost savings, there is also another key enticement for airlines to encourage passengers to book their itineraries online — effectively doing what was once someone’s full-time job. When there is an error made in the online booking process, passengers now have only themselves to blame. Gone are the days when an unhappy customer could insist that he or she clearly told the reservation agent “round-trip to London, England not round-trip to London, Ontario” — now that passengers are their own reservation agents.