by Ihla Crowley
At the Travel Trade Show held in Las Vegas in September, one of many informative panel seminars I attended was devoted solely to the issue of airfare unbundling a new concept to me, and maybe to you. But we’d better become familiar with it because according to the ‘experts’ at the show, it’s the wave of the future for airline travel.
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|Very simply put, unbundling is where an airline charges a very low basic fare and then tacks on an additional fee for everything (and I mean everything) else. If you want an aisle seat, you pay extra; if you want to check a bag, you pay extra. Want a coke? How about a blanket? Be ready to pay for them. If you need to use the bathroom, pay at the door well maybe it’s not quite that bad, yet, but you get the idea.
The airlines’ spin is that it is a way for travelers to save money; to make sure fliers don’t pay for services they don’t use. The cynics, of course, have a different spin, figuring that airlines will just charge their regular fares and tack on extras to make more money.
A middle-of-the-road position, I guess, is that the airlines were forced into this to balance the demand from the public for lower fares with their rising fuel and other costs. Instead of taking all services away from all travelers, carte blanche, which seems to be the trend, why not give them the choice of adding back some amenities if that’s what they want.
Some foreign airlines, such as Air Canada, have initiated such pricing models already, and it is only a matter of time before domestic airlines follow. A July 2007 Business Travel News article reported AirTran, United and US Airways have said they are exploring such models.
The fact that the four major global distribution systems (what travel agents use to book airlines) are in the midst of enabling airfare unbundling and other travel merchandising options is one indication that it’s a reality. Guess we’d better get used to it.
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