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Is Delta Bullying Cheap Flyers to Spend More?

Is Delta Bullying Cheap Flyers to Spend More?
Jeff Edwards

A flyers rights group says that Delta’s final message to passengers attempting to book ultra-low-fare tickets is an attempt to embarrass them into purchasing pricier seats.

It is not news that passengers who spend more money are generally afforded more dignity when flying. Excessive legroom and curtains that keep first class passengers from having to gaze at the hoi polloi in coach have been around as long as there have been distinct airfare price tiers, but one consumer group claims Delta Air Lines has crossed the line and is actually trying to humiliate flyers who wish to purchase cheap fares.

At issue is a message on the company’s website that only pops-up when passengers attempt to book ultra-low-fare tickets. The notice, only seen by bargain hunters, reiterates the restrictions and disadvantages that come with purchasing an inexpensive ticket.

17warning

Customers must confirm that they understand the hardships that accompany the cheapest of tickets before they are able to complete their booking. Among the burdens these customers will endure, Delta warns, are: no seat assignment, absolutely no refunds and no changes.

FlyersRights President Paul Hudson told the Los Angeles Times that the practice amounts to a high-pressure sales technique designed to make flyers question the decision to purchase the lowest fare available. Hudson says his non-profit organization is concerned that the bullying practice will spread to other carriers.

Delta spokesman Anthony Black dismissed the notion that the message is an attempt to embarrass bargain hunters, telling the Times that the notice is simply “an attempt to make people aware of what they are buying.”

[Photo: Delta Air Lines]

View Comments (26)

26 Comments

  1. CDKing

    August 17, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    I have to agree with delta at least on the use of the popup is just another warning after i bet thousands of complaint from people not knowing what they bought. Just like ULCC explain that in detail with multiple warnings of what the airfare does and does not include and includes upsells.

  2. live5

    August 17, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    I agree with Delta too. This is a GOOD thing. It prevents people from showing up at the airport with expectations that won’t be met.

  3. jbb

    August 17, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I think Delta is not only justified on this one, but should be lauded for their transparency. Many customers still have certain expectations regarding changes and seat assignments so it is important that airlines be as clear as possible on what is allowed and what charges there are under a given fare class. I think it’s good that Delta is making it crystal clear on the restrictions that are part of the Basic Economy fares.

    EXCEPT, I do kind of agree that the ‘last to board’ and ‘last to access overhead bin space’ goes more into a grey area. This is less communicating a policy and more rubbing in the negative outcomes of buying this fare. And the way it’s phrased can be misleading too. You won’t necessarily be the “last” to board if you buy one of these fairs, but rather among the last group of passengers to board.

    In short, I’m totally fine with this message except for the first point listed.

  4. HatAndJacket

    August 17, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    i’m gonna have to side with delta on this one, too, and believe me – if i’m siding with delta over passengers they must have a pretty weak case against the airline… i mean, come on though – warning people that they are choosing a basic fare with restrictions and then letting them know what the restrictions are amounts to high pressure sales? give me a break. I’d be mad if delta didn’t let people know – then people would say they were tricking people into restrictions they don’t know about

  5. fedup flyer

    August 17, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    I agree with CD King.
    Too many Kettles buy el-cheap-o fares and expecting first class service, then complain.
    At least now they have been informed.

  6. writerguyfl

    August 17, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    What a ridiculous assertion. That’s not bullying. In fact, I’d categorize it as Delta going above and beyond to help the customer by clearly listing the rules/restrictions. A less-honest company would purposely hide these things in small print.

  7. mot29

    August 18, 2015 at 4:54 am

    I agree with CDKing. Letting people know that the very low fares are packed with restrictions. Nothing high-pressure, just clear information.

  8. BWItravelerman

    August 18, 2015 at 5:10 am

    Far more upsetting is Delta taking away perks like upgrades. There is the real story

  9. GRALISTAIR

    August 18, 2015 at 6:59 am

    I agree with Delta. If they did not give the warning there would be howls of complaints “Well I did not know what I was buying ” mantra. An airline is entitled to make a profit -after all we are not a middle east 3 or a communist airline. (appologies to Don Barzini in the Godfather)

  10. Grog

    August 18, 2015 at 7:20 am

    I really like seeing such pop-ups. Much better than having a negative surprise at flight time

    Paul Hudson (FlyersRights President) is WAY off the mark: Delta is providing me full disclosure on tangilble benefits–they’re not bullying me. Mr. Hudson’s point might be valid if he were writing about car rental agencies who truly sell intangible and usually worthless insurance packages.

  11. kcaluwae

    August 18, 2015 at 7:52 am

    This is just an example of clear commmunication. I rather get this kind of message when I’m buying my ticket than I have to find out at the airport about all the restrictions.

  12. RSSrsvp

    August 18, 2015 at 8:53 am

    The title of this article is misleading; by saying “Is Delta Bullying Customers Into Spending More Money?” you are painting a negative picture for the reader about the airline.

    DL is being proactive and trying to avoid the fallout later on when people have purchased these ultra low fares and complain that they did not receive fair warning of what they will not receive on these fares. No refund, no changes, no upgrades, etc.

  13. kop84

    August 18, 2015 at 9:26 am

    His assertion that DL is trying to get people to not pick the lowest fare is based on a faulty premise.
    How does he know that DL would even OFFER that low a fare with the traditional benefits.

    If you think of it more as DL is offering me a discount for not getting a pre-assigned seat, and forgoing upgrades, and changes the premise works much better.

  14. BJM

    August 18, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Delta lists the limitation of the fare and there is no sales pressure . The pop-up does *not* say, “What are you, a cheap a$$? You are embarrassing yourself and everyone will know that you really can’t afford to travel. Save your self the shame and buy up to a dignified fare.!” I am sure a class action cannot be far behind.

  15. Catuary

    August 18, 2015 at 10:12 am

    I don’t particularly care for the Basic Economy class because I can envision my company travel site forcing me to choose it over regular coach. That being said, I would absolutely want to know any restrictions in advance. I don’t quite understand the no standby rule. One would think taking an empty seat (that would remain empty) on an earlier flight opens up the purchased seat for last minute sales, disrupted travelers, etc., which is beneficial to the airline.

  16. FlyingWithers

    August 18, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    I am fine with this pop up. There have been DL FT posts about those getting these seats and then not being able to change or purchase C+. I think it is better to be warned so that those purchasing know the drill. So, no complaints when purchasing those cheap seats now.

    DL told you so.

  17. diver858

    August 18, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Just another in the string of FT and affiliated website articles to cast full service US carriers in a negative light while posting puff pieces for Southwest.

    Guess what, FT – the UNANIMOUS response from your members is impossible to ignore.

    At what point will your staff stop citing secondary sources sent to them by Southwest marketing, attempting to cast competitors in a negative light?

  18. PHL

    August 18, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    This story basically got legs from a tweet on August 8 by what appears to be a wanna-be blogger.
    https://twitter.com/rafat/status/630020295705927680/photo/1

    From that tweet, skift.com (what is that anyway??) picked it up
    http://skift.com/2015/08/10/travel-brands-stop-hate-selling-to-your-customers/

    Then FltyerRights.org web site picked it up and reposted it on their blog
    http://strandedpassengers.blogspot.com

    I guess that caught the eye of the LA Times since the dude from FlyerRights.org (Paul Hudson) got a quote into the article (which surely drove some level of traffic to his site).

    And now here we have FT picking it up 10 days later from the initial tweet, which is basically ancient news in today’s world.

    Very original writing, FT!

    And yes, I agree, for a change there is no bait and switch. The DL site is very clear to the buyer what they are getting. I suppose if they weren’t doing that, the same twitter dude would be complaining about buying a cheap ticket and getting no other services.

  19. OrangeCountyCommuter

    August 19, 2015 at 6:10 am

    So they are bad for warning you what you get in advance? Sorry if they didn’t do that you would have written an article trashing them for not telling Bubba that the dirt cheap fare didn’t get full mileage and reserved seating

    This is just “we need to trash someone so you will read our story” journalism!

  20. philipperv

    August 20, 2015 at 4:51 am

    Is it just me or have all the conditions they list in their disclaimer always existed with basic economy fares? Nothing wrong with disclaimers. I feel that they are a good thing and don’t shame anyone.

    What bothers me is that no one in this thread has mentioned the real problem with Delta i.e. being the 1st airline to change the way miles are accrued and taking their Skymiles program out of the reach of us regular leisure travelers. I realize that most, if not all, airlines will eventually follow suit but if there are a few holdouts they will surely reap the rewards.

  21. oldflyguy

    August 20, 2015 at 5:18 am

    I quit flying Delta in 2002 with more than 860,000 frequent flyer miles. For those of you that appreciate Delta’s transparency. I wish that you flew out of Cincinnati which is my home airport. For more than 10 years I was an IT instructor traveling more than 40 weeks a year. During that time I watched Delta turn my airport into one of the most expensive airports in the country from which to fly. I would have loved to have seen Delta publish these statements:
    Should you choose to fly on our airline from Cincinnati you will be paying one of the most expensive fares in the country.
    If you want to fly cheaper, then you can drive to Lexington (70 miles), Dayton (90 miles, Columbus (120 miles), Louisville (120 miles) or Indianapolis (100 miles). From these airports we offer fares that are $200-300 cheaper with you still flying on us and connecting through Cincinnati.
    If a low fare carrier, such as Vanguard Airlines, begins operating in Cincinnati we will then drop our fares to match their fares on competitive routes until we drive them out of the market.

  22. the cranky banker

    August 20, 2015 at 5:21 am

    Bullying??? It’s the passenger who intentionally buys a cheap ticket and then tries to bully or wheedle the gate agent or cabin crew into supplying perquisites that bothers me. Thank you, Delta, for doing what you can to head off undeserved requests.

  23. pmiranda

    August 20, 2015 at 5:27 am

    I avoid Delta as much as practical, but I think this is a great move by them. I wish there had been a popup like that when my wife booked flights to Germany and only found out later that seating assignments are no longer complimentary on Lufthansa and Swissair. Something tells me the popup only works on Delta’s website and not on broker websites.

  24. pilotspouse

    August 20, 2015 at 6:16 am

    Drivel. This author is a attempting to be a provocateur. Hardships? Burdens? Bullying? No one is buying his editorial. These are sensible T&C for a fare bucket. General consensus seems to be, no point; it’s hardly reporting, and DL has explained the low fare in complete terms via a pop-up. If pax want to buy this fare, they have been informed.

  25. mrdowning

    August 20, 2015 at 8:15 am

    I flew Basic Economy this past weekend between Seattle and Phoenix. My seat was assigned at the gate. Ironically, I was given 4A, directly behind First Class, so with plenty of leg room — one of the best tourist class seats on the plane. Clearly, many of the pricier seats do not sell.

  26. TropicalTripper

    August 22, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    And if Delta didn’t provide any warnings, flyers rights groups would claim that Delta was deceiving passengers by selling one fare class that excludes many of the benefits travelers have come to expect. Delta is being fully transparent here. This isn’t bullying. On my September DCA-ATL-DCA trip I gladly paid the $20 more for the next booking class above ‘E’. I am elite so have more to lose, but I probably would’ve done it even if I didn’t have status. Flyers rights groups always seem to take it too far so I have a hard time taking them seriously.

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