In Montreal for a brief trip, I thought I could make a 3 p.m. flight. Not a chance.
Called to rebook ... after listening to a bunch of marketing stuff, they told me it would cost $20 to speak to an operator instead of going online.
Ever conscious of clients' perceptions of the expense tally, I searched out an internet connection.
No dice -- it was less than 45 minutes to my flight, so I had to call. They would waive the $20 surcharge if I provided a special code that showed I'd tried to do this online. Okay, scrounge a Post-it note, and take down code. Start again with the phone.
$40 to change the flight an hour. No problem, I said.
But they couldn't book me a seat, I had to do that at the airport, because people had already started to check in for the later flight. I have to admit, that surprised me, but what could I do?
Upon arrival at the airport, I see that -- incredibly -- the original flight has not yet left. Here's where it gets good. For another $50, I can rebook. I tell them I already paid. They check the system. They want to know if I paid at the airport or over the phone?
Too bad for me, I paid over the phone.
"Phone is not the same." That is literally what they told me. Shaking of heads, looking at each other for confirmation, agreeing. "Phone is not the same."
When you have to administer policies that horrible, you do your best to close off any possibility of discussion as quickly as possible. And can you blame them? In this kind of environment, they'd be wasting their money on customer-service training or anything else like that.
Yield management is about squeezing as much as possible out of every seat on the plane. And of course, by extension, out of you and me. No wonder the tickets need three pages of conditions after the itinerary.
"The freedom to fly your own way"
Because I organized my day so badly, I had to sit in the middle of two big guys who were travelling together. I would probably have paid a fee to avoid that. Maybe not for a 75-minute flight. But definitely for a long flight. A fee to avoid the middle seat. Or a fee to ensure you sit only beside thin polite people who have showered today. See how insidious this kind of thing can be?