Why can’t airlines make money? No, it’s not high fuel prices (otherwise, most of Europe’s airlines would have gone belly-up long ago). Bad management? Maybe.
Then again, it could just be a lack of common sense.
That’s Chris Sloan’s conclusion, at least when it comes to a legacy carrier like United Airlines. Here’s what happened to him on a recent flight from Washington to Beijing.
When we checked in, we were offered a promotional upgrade to business class for $600. For a 13-hour flight, we were happy to take advantage, and we did.
Sloan hoped to score a similar upgrade on the return flight. For him, paying another $600 was well worth the additional comfort and amenities of United’s business class. But the airline said “no.” The promotion had ended.
I asked how many business class seats were available, and was told more than 20. I asked my hotel concierge to work his magic, and he got the same answer.
When I got to the check-in counter, I asked again — same answer. I finally tried one more time at the gate, and same answer.
Exasperated, I again asked how many business class seats were available less than two hours before the flight, and was again told 20 or more. I made it very clear to them that I would happily pay $600 for one of them. They could not help.
Is United nuts? I mean, here’s an airline that lost $2.7 billion in the last quarter. Why would it turn down money from anyone?
Instead, United insisted that he pay thousands of dollars for an upgrade, preferring to let the 20 seats remain empty and for many of the remaining seats to be filled with passengers who used their miles to upgrade (free). It boggles the mind.
“People wonder why those airlines are struggling,” said Sloan, who ended up spending 13 hours in economy class. “This is a prime example of the level of bureaucratic nonsense and inefficiency that plagues most of them. Common sense need not apply.”