Does this blizzard expose the travel industry’s cold heart?

By | January 26th, 2015

An epic blizzard bearing down on the East Coast of the United States today is forcing passengers to ask difficult questions about compassion and the travel industry that supposedly serves them.

It may be even more difficult for travel companies to answer them.

Airlines are waiving their strict ticket change rules in advance of the storm. For example, American Airlines will allow passengers on nonrefundable tickets to make a ticket change without penalties through tomorrow. Other air carriers operating in the affected area are loosening their rules, too. Even notoriously rule-happy Spirit is going a little easier on its customers.

Hotels, car rental companies and other travel suppliers are also waiving their rules on a case-by-case basis, so if you’re traveling today or tomorrow, check with your travel company or agent. There’s a good chance it will let you off the hook if you have to cancel a trip.

And that’s all fine until Wednesday, when everyone reverts to the old rules.

A gold standard tarnished

Here’s the problem: The American travel industry used to be the gold standard for customer service, led by a carefully-regulated airline industry. A generation ago, travel was known for being not only hospitable, but compassionate.

If you needed a ticket changed because of a personal emergency, no problem. A friendly agent would handle it for you, often at no extra charge. Couldn’t make it to your hotel because of a hurricane or because your mom was ill? No worries, an accommodating front-desk employee would cancel your reservation without any penalties.

Customers loved it. They came to expect it from the travel industry. So in the early 1990s, when travel companies began relying on fees for their profits and started to tighten their rules, it took many customers by surprise.

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After 9/11 and the recession the trend accelerated. Today, vast sectors of the travel industry rely on fees for their survival. In 2013 alone, the domestic airlines collected an astounding $2.8 billion in ticket change fees, up from $2.5 billion a year before.

That led to an historic decline in customer satisfaction. Airlines, quite simply, are failing at customer service today. Hotels aren’t faring much better.


The gold standard is gone. A hall pass won’t change that.

“It looks like compassion,” says Suzanne Fast of today’s rule waivers. “But it isn’t.”

Companies are willing to give up some of the fee revenues “to minimize the snarl of delayed traffic to the extent they can,” she says.

“And it’s good PR. If they can get it portrayed as compassion rather than self-interest, it does little to challenge their contention that the fees are legitimate under normal conditions,” she adds.

How about a little reciprocity?

Perhaps this is a good time to consider what’s right, instead of just what’s profitable.

When the tables are turned, travel companies rarely waive their rules for customers. Say you were hospitalized just before your cruise. The company’s response: Sorry, no refunds. You shoulda bought insurance.

Car broke down on your way to the airport? Not our problem, say airlines. You’re a “no show” and have to pay for a new ticket. (Airlines claim to have what’s called a “flat tire” rule that will put you on the next flight, but it’s more of a myth, from where I’m sitting. No airline has ever actually shown me its “flat tire” policy.)

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So as the snow falls today, maybe in a quiet moment, the managers who create and enforce these draconian policies should ask themselves: Why don’t we do this more often? Why don’t we show our customers a little more compassion?

There will be voices within the organization that will tell them, “This will put us at a competitive disadvantage.” They’ll remind them that some passengers will exploit this corporate generosity — the same ones whose “aunt” in Boca Raton conveniently dies every year around spring break.

But maybe there will also be a voice deep within that counters, “No. You’ve lost your way.”

Because, quite frankly, you have, travel industry. You’ve lost your way.

Your customers hate you. The only repeat guests you have are the indentured servants who are hooked on your loyalty programs.

You can do better.

Travel companies shouldn’t wait for a reason to show compassion. Every day should be a snow day. Why? Because it’s right. Then, the loyalty doesn’t have to be coerced with worthless points and miles. And you don’t have to become a “hacker” to travel with dignity.

Good service will be given freely because it’s the decent thing to do.

“Treat your customers well and they will be your customers for life,” says Ed Rudow, a consultant who is watching the snow come down in Washington. “Abuse them and they will choose a competitor whenever they can.”

Does the travel industry show enough compassion?

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  • rob

    Wouldhelp if you reference your quoted “authorities”(i.e. Suzanne Fast–theonly person by that name I see at facebook looks to be holding some kind of bazooka.) And I think the gold standard you refer to is a fully-refundable ticket. We get what we pay for and as travelers we have demanded cheaper and cheaper fares which necessitate the standard you describe. Blame lies with the public and not the industry.

  • Since this is a story about customer service, I’m interested in the opinions of other customers. Fast and Rudow are both travelers.

    Sorry we disagree on this issue, but I can’t blame the customer for this. No customer ever asked for this.

  • MarkKelling

    I really don’t get the people who pine for the old days of the highly regulated airline industry with fixed ticket prices and government mandated routes. Sure everyone dressed in their finest suits and the women wore hats and gloves and the airline served champagne and caviar on even domestic flights, but it was only the top percentage of the population that could afford to fly and even then it was only for special situations. Everyone else took the bus. Is that what you really want the airline industry to go back to?

    Of course the airline industry (and all other travel related industries) today could be a bit more understanding and flexible. But given that their customers continually vote with their dollars for non-refundale highly restricted options, that is what they will continue to sell. So how can you continue to say that the customers have not asked for this?

  • John Baker

    I normally am accused of being the biggest airline apologist but its things like this that just set me off…
    1. My plans have to be set in stone up to 330 days out when I buy the ticket but the airlines can change their schedule whenever without penalty. Really! Like a refund a month out because your cancelled my flight and the new schedule doesn’t work is really fair…
    2. Situations like this I love even more…. So the airlines cancel the flights and I can rebook without penalty but … If my reason for travelling doesn’t exist because it was a time specific trip… well too bad soo sad….

    Yea… At some point things need to change. At the very least, the penalty for changing the schedule should be reciprocal (ie if my change fee is $150, that’t theirs too).

  • John, is that really you? I don’t think I’ve ever accused you of being an airline apologist, but I agree with everything you said.

  • sirwired

    “A generation ago, travel was known for being not only hospitable, but compassionate.”

    Air travel was also known for being ludicrously expensive. Not for nothing has the phrase “Jet Set” now fallen into disuse as air travel has become so much more affordable.

    When the government mandates your (high) prices, and all you have to compete on is customer service, the proverbial red carpet for everybody makes sense. When you actually have to compete on prices, customers (via who they choose to book tickets with) decide how much customer service they find acceptable. Since Spirit not only exists, but has the highest margins of any airline in the country, I’d say that’s a pretty strong indication that plenty of customers place zero priority on customer service.

  • G.W.

    No Sir, I’ve never asked for less customer service. No Sir, I’ve never asked for cheaper and cheaper until I now refuse to fly for any trip that I can drive in 3 or less days.
    I asked for a comfortable seat on a plane to get me from Point A to Point B.
    Yes, at times, I shopped around for the best price and then there were times when I flew Braniff or Continental (admitting my age here) simply because they once gave me a free drink or because they treated my infant daughter like she was priceless.
    Customer service doesn’t always cost money. Good customer service will always net more than just money. Airlines, car rental companies, and now hotels are forgetting that in name of saving a dime.
    Blame the public? Blame the shareholders.

  • bodega3

    A generation ago, travel was known for being not only hospitable, but compassionate.
    ******************************************
    A generation ago, passengers made a commitment and didn’t change their minds every 10 minutes and lie about why they are changing their minds. THIS is the reason so many rules have been put into play.

  • bodega3

    And being a good customer gets you service. It takes two.

  • Joe Farrell

    Cheap fares do not ‘require’ fees . . . thats pretty bad logic. Even if you buy a fully refundable fare you often have to pay the same fees. And you definitely get the same crappy seat.

    We’ve been seeing some corporate pushback on this – my wife travels a week a month and she has been seeing negotiated first class fares very close to 3 day out coach prices [which really are not that much more than the bargain basement level coach fares] with seat and bag fees waived. Hey, it doesn’t matter for her since her status is enough to get her upgraded most flights – but these fares show the airlines want to bring people back by waiving their fees – at least at the corporate ‘fly us exclusively’ level.

    If the industry has decided to live and die by fees – sooner or later they’ll die by them. you need to earn a profit on your base business operations – if you can’t – then you go out of business because sooner or later a competitor comes along who undercuts you . . . . by providing service for the same price.

  • John Baker

    As defined by most people on this site, customer service absolutely costs money… Refunding non-refundable tickets is an expense …. adding people to reduce waits is an expense…

    Now hiring nice people and getting rid of the mean nasty gate agents… that means taking on the unions at the hubs and that’s a huge expense…

  • Zod

    The saying that is apropos here is “power corrupts” and the airlines figured out that they have all the power!

  • ChelseaGirl

    I happen to agree with the cruise industry. If you’re spending thousands on a cruise, you shouldn’t skimp on the extra few hundred bucks for insurance. It’s the traveler’s responsibility to buy it, but many don’t and then complain when the cruise line won’t reimburse them.

  • Joe

    The first step to not being disappointed is to manage expectations. If you expect to get filet mignon at hamburger prices, you’re bound to be disappointed and condemn the system as broken.

  • MarkKelling

    The customers place zero priority on customer service — until they need customer service. Then you see their complaint here.

  • Joe Farrell

    DOT Rule 242.5 [proposed]

    “Any scheduled carrier who has received a certificate of necessity from this Department who fails to operate a flight as scheduled due to maintenance or crew scheduling issues which are reasonably foreseeable, or who, in the operation of a flight causes a passenger to misconnect due to any reasonably foreseeble occurrence and who does not get the passenger to their final destination within 2 hours of their originally scheduled arrival time, shall owe the passenger, in addition to any other damages related to travel expenses, such as food and lodging expenses, their then in effect ticket change fee.

    “Passengers shall have a private right of action to enforce this regulation and shall be entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys fees and costs.

    “Delays and cancellations related to adverse weather shall be an absolute defense, provided, the delay or cancellation is directly attributable to weather affecting the affected flight’s departure or destination airport, aircraft or flight crew within 12 hours immediately preceding the operation of the flight or reasonably calculated to affect the operations of the flight within 12 hours subsequent to its scheduled departure. The intentional invocation of ‘weather’ as a defense which is found to be false or not accurate within the meaning of this regulation shall be determined to be an unfair trade practice, with the presumption of an award of punitive damages to the claimant.”

    Such will solve the entire problem going the other way. . . .

  • MarkKelling

    A generation ago, most travel arrangements were fully refundable without fees anyway so it didn’t matter if you changed your mind or how many times you changed it and no excuses were required.

    But the travelers back then didn’t just get up one morning and think “I might want to fly to Vegas next weekend so I will book a ticket at lunch today” only to find they are expected to be at work next weekend after they bought tickets at lunch. The travelers of a generation ago made definitive plans because air travel was an experience, not a commodity.

  • MarkKelling

    I like it. But I feel it should go further and mandate full refunds or reaccomodation at no additional cost to the passengers when a weather delay occurs to be allowed with the passenger choosing the desired option.

  • bodega3

    I never had clients change their minds after buying a ticket when I first started in this business. People stuck to their plans, so having rules and fees weren’t a necessity. If they bought a ticket, they knew their work schedule, checked things out ahead of time. Now things are done at the drop of a hat, no thought to it, then they check on the details of their life and want merchants to allow them to get their money back. The travel industry isn’t the only one dealing with mind changers.

  • G.W.

    Refunding an airline ticket 3 days before the flight may cost the airline money. Refunding an airline ticket a month before the flight will probably net them a higher amount on resale of that same ticket. Does that even it out?
    I don’t know.
    The airlines managed to make a pretty nice profit back when all the tickets they sold were refundable. I think this business about the “customer asking for it” is baloney. I remember the price wars back in the 80’s and 90’s. The airlines fought among themselves, not with us. So blaming the consumer now is just silly.

  • John Baker

    @comanchepilot:disqus I love it as a first step… What I don’t like is it still allows airlines to change their schedule without penalty (who hasn’t had that happen).

    Is this a real proposed rule or a JoeFarrell proposal that we need to get Chris to push before I send everyone in Congress a note.

  • John Baker

    They made a profit but they also charged a lot more (inflation adjusted) than they do now…

    Sorry I fall into the “watch what you ask for crowd.” As a flying public, we continue to show that we only care about the fare price not the service or the fees. Its the reason why RyanAir and Spirit are the two most profitable airlines in their markets….

  • crash025

    The flat tire rule is done in practice with a few airlines. I’ve had a US ticket on UA metal on the first segment adjusted for that. [It was IAD-LGA-ROC] UA offered to get me to LGA on the next flight, but it was suggested to go to US to fix it. US was happy to fix it. [No extra fees or anything]

    Lefthouthansa on the other hand: It was basically f*k you, pay a crazy amount more.

  • Brooklyn

    No, we didn’t dress up back then unless we were meeting the love of our life at the other end. I don’t ever remember seeing a woman flying in a hat and gloves or being served champagne and caviar on a domestic flight. I was a starving student back then and I could afford to fly. How old ARE you apologists anyway? You believe what the industry is telling you; try asking your grandparents!

  • Brooklyn

    Read EU261. It’s been in force for years and the fares haven’t gone up. Even if your flight is cancelled for bad weather, they have what’s called a “duty to care” for stranded passengers; what that means depends on the situation. Here is the link to the legislation: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32004R0261

  • rob

    I does happen– recently I was running late. Leg 1: “Forced” to pay $50 to change to later flight. Leg 2: Delayed, re-scheduled by airline–called and suggested that if I was having to pay to for a later flight, they should pay for delay by refunding my earlier-in-the day fee. Agent said we don’t do that, but let me check with supervisor. Return to line: deal. Refund to credit card before plane landed in hometown.

  • bodega3

    Brooklyn, you are not relating to the generation that indeed did dress up to fly. Yes, champagne was served, free of charge on some flights, especially to Hawaii. Back in the 60’s, it was very common to see women wearing hats and gloves, even on the bus.

  • Michael__K

    I don’t think consumers have asked for this. Perhaps investment analysts and shareholders have asked for this.

    I read lots of stories on this blog about consumers who splurged for extras and came away very disappointed.

    And it’s not just airlines. When I was in college (this was just before e-commerce), most tickets on the local inter-city bus companies were fully flexible, flat fares. On popular routes I didn’t have to declare my departure time in advance. In fact, I couldn’t even if I wanted to. The general rule was, if you presented yourself 20 minutes before a scheduled departure with a ticket, you were guaranteed a seat. Additional buses and drivers were on stand-by, and they would load as many buses as needed. I once took a 4 hour bus trip on an “extra” bus with just 2 other people.

    Out of curiosity, I checked the policies and rates for the same [now consolidated] lines today. These days, naturally, you have to pick your departure and the reservation is non-refundable. If you have to change your plans it will cost you.

    And is the fare lower? If you are traveling at unpopular, off-peak times, yeah. If you are traveling at popular times (like for weekend getaways or at school vacation times — which is about the only times I traveled), I see the fares, adjusted for inflation, are about the same or even higher.

  • Brooklyn

    On day trips to the big city we wore gloves and sometimes hats, but I started flying in 1965 and never saw any of those things on a plane. If you were flying first class back then, maybe, but I couldn’t afford it.

  • TonyA_says

    I do not expect compassion just reaccommodation.
    For us here in NY-CT this is not a joke. I live in the county where the eye is expected to hit. Expecting 26″ till late tomorrow (Wednesday).

    Everything will pretty much shut down here soon. Not just the flights. You can’t even be in the roads of Connecticut tonight (9PM)

    I got a call from my son this morning. He is in Aspen for the X-games. His flight back was cancelled, and he is trying to reroute to California because Aspen is way too expensive to get stuck in.
    So do we expect compassion from the airline or his hotel? No.
    I went to the bank and transferred money. A lot of money :( No whining just pay.

    Just got a text message. Airline agreed to fly him to DEN where getting stuck is cheaper.
    Life has a lot of twists and turns. If you don’t save for a rainy (snowy) day then you are the problem.
    Even the squirrels here know they have to prepare for the worst.

  • Michael__K

    You have the cause-and-effect confused.

    About a generation ago, airlines used to allow free changes. They didn’t mind if you changed your mind.

    Not even a generation ago — less than 20 years ago — many inter-city bus companies wouldn’t even ask passengers to make up their minds. Just show up 20+ minutes before any scheduled departure and you got a seat.

    These things changed not because people’s behavior changed but because businesses found ways to become more “efficient” — with more predictable, tightly scheduled utilization of their inventory and their workforce.

  • IGoEverywhere

    This week will prove to the public of why they need 2 things. 50% of those affected will lose their cruise fares, hotel reservations, and tours; they are non-refundable and 100% loss if they do not get there. The airlines will say let’s assist you and get you re-routed by Thursday or so, there will be no penalties on the airline part of travel, most all tickets are refundable. What were the 2 things needed?
    1) Our travel agency spent all day Saturday and Sunday re-routing and re-booking hotels. Tour wise we were able to accommodate 12 affected clients at $0.00 cost to the clients. All of the airline clients were out before the storm hit. Lots of work.
    2) Clients that have insurance should all be safe. We used the insurance to cover 10 of the 12 that would have to pay 1000’s to make these changes if they did not travel. The tour companies will not lose money unless they themselves cancel.
    Travel agents and insurance can cover their clients
    The travel world will not lose any money over a little thing called a blizzard.

  • bodega3

    I stand by my statement. People have changed. They don’t stick to their plans, don’t RSVP, are rude, don’t treat others in a kind way. It is all about me…I want it now. I have been in the industry for 30 decades and have spoken to vendors, I have a clue to what has started the fees. Once fees started making money for vendors, that put a new spin on things, but it was past customers change of habits that got things rolling. Sadly, customers have become their own worst enemy.

  • So I suppose you have to buy a lot to get treated nicely….

  • Have to wonder why a refundable ticket costs 2x – 3x a nonrefundable ticket. No wonder people don’t buy those, can’t afford them. Priced out a ticket to visit my in-laws in Italy. One nonrefundable ticket was approx. $1700, but the refundable (coach) ticket was close to $5000. That prices it well out of reach for most. And doesn’t make sense, as who would pay over $2000 to protect a $1700 ticket?

    And no, didn’t ask for poor treatment, or ultra low fares. I wanted to be treated with respect and I’ll pay a fair price.

  • bodega3

    Not at all. Body language, a smile, a upbeat tone over the phone, all help you and the merchant.

  • John Baker

    To a certain extent … you’re both right and wrong …
    We have become a nation where rules don’t apply to us (case in point the demanding a refund for a non-refundable ). Definitely not something that happens 20 years ago. People actually accepted responsibility for their mistakes / errors.

    On the other side, as costs increased, businesses refined their business models to lower costs, move risk and remain competitive. Lower costs, in general, lead to lower consumer costs which everyone seems to like.

    Its the combination of the two that have lead to the situation we’re in now.

  • Michael__K

    Those bus companies didn’t change policies because of customers who didn’t stick to their plans. They previously never even asked their customers to declare their plans in advance, so they had no way of even knowing (let alone complaining) if their customers changed plans.

    Personal anecdotes aren’t worth much here.

    If customer behavior changed, then you should be able to cite hard evidence supported by reservation/cancellation data.

  • bodega3

    Because that $5000 ticket helps to keep your $1700 ticket being offered.

  • bodega3

    I don’t deal with bus companies, can’t help you.

  • Once, back in the 00’s one of my daughters was flying back home from visiting family in Canada. At one of her connections, she fell asleep and missed her flight. (The kid could fall asleep walking down the street if she wanted to) She called me in a bit of a panic, and I told her to go up to the gate and see what could be done. I had my credit card ready (sigh) but when she called back she got on another flight, no problems.

    Sometimes, things do work out…

  • Ha, wonder how many actually buy that….

  • bodega3

    Ha…it doesn’t matter. There is a cost for that flight and the prices are set for ‘x’ amount of tickets at each price. I can go in and see fares and see how many are allowed to be sold at that price.

  • 30 decades? That’s a long time.

  • Michael__K

    The DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics has published airline revenue data, including revenue from change fees, since 1979.

    If consumers’ “commitment” behavior changed, one would expect to see rising change fee revenue per passenger that can’t be traced to change fee increases nor to changes in the treatment of residual values. I don’t think you will find any such systemic trend in the data.

  • bodega3

    Corrected it, but I feels like it on some days!

  • Mel65

    My son did the same thing flying home from Hawaii, but thank goodness some little old lady shook him awake and asked if he should be on board this flight that was getting ready to close its doors. He was the last to board. I was grateful for her persistence, knowing from experience how hard it is to wake that boy up!

  • so if no one buys the refundable coach tickets, then what?

  • And all of that is free :) And I always seem to get good service, must be doing it right ;)

  • bodega3

    Then the nonrefundable fares go up. They changes fares multiple times a day.

  • MarkKelling

    I’m not that old, and are you calling me an apologist?

    I started flying in the mid 1970’s which was still during the regulated period. Many of the women boarding that first flight I was on were wearing hats and gloves (OK, those women were very old and maybe that was how they always dressed to travel) but everyone was dressed in business suits.

    And my grandparents never flew anywhere – they were a great example of the American middle class with a nice home and a picket fence in a very nice neighborhood but could not afford to fly with the prices mandated by the overly regulated airlines.

  • MarkKelling

    I remember when Southwest allowed you to buy a book of 10 flight coupons that allowed you to just show up at the airport and get on the next flight with space. Of course this was way back in the 80’s and things have changed a lot since then. (WN also gave out full size bottles of booze for a while for you to take with you after your flight.)

    And yes, the companies are trying to show huge profits to make the shareholders happy. As long as customers keep coming back and the planes are full, nothing will change for the better. And I’m afraid that even if customers quit coming they will only file bankruptcy and return as an even more miserly discount airline.

    Customers have not asked specifically for a lack of leg room, snippy customer service, and a completely idiotic attitude by airline employees of “who cares” but that is what we get by continuing to buy the cheapest tickets.

  • bodega3

    WN, when they started flying from here had donuts and coffee, for free, on a cart at the gate. American West use to give you two free alcoholic drinks per flight.

  • MarkKelling

    I would volunteer to pick up clients at the airport when they were flying in to HOU because the donuts and coffee WN had at their gates was top notch! Of course that was when you didn’t need an actual boarding pass to get to the gate.

  • bodega3

    Lots of differences back when!

  • BillCCC

    Sigh. A good article ruined at the end by a swipe at people that use loyalty programs. I guess the call for keeping the comments classy didn’t apply to the articles.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    getting really sick of hearing of people buying non-refundable tickets/hire cars/hotel rooms wanting a full refund, for some feable or bs excuse.
    Airlines etc. are sick of the “stories” they hear from customers who want to pay close to nothing, but expect 1st class service.
    Having worked as a travel wholesaler, I heard them all.

  • Tracy T.

    Wow. Really?!? Care to share what airline that was?

  • You raised a great point: if airlines figured out a sliding scale for change fees based on the proximity to flight date (easy with their software), they could undoubtedly offer a really compassionate-looking deal without losing any actual revenue from change fees. Fixed high change fees deter passengers who are deciding between booking a flight and taking a long, difficult car trip to the destination: a better deal on change fees up to, say a week out would tip a lot of these prospects into deciding to take the flight.

  • True, but when I started flying in 1967 customer service still existed and if you couldn’t take a flight, you could sell your bearer-document paper ticket to someone else.

  • I remember free standby on WN. In that time I commuted weekly PHX-BRB, and knowing the vagaries of LA traffic I always scheduled an evening return after rush hour. Usually I finished work in time to be at BRB two or even three hourly flights before my booking, and could always get on at that less-busy time of day. WN then had a busy-time seat they could resell at a premium. Then one day they stopped allowing standby, and WN and I both lost.

  • rob

    Delta–I was a bit surprised that ANY airline would do that and ESPECIALLY that Delta did.

  • MarkKelling

    Yep, WN used to do a lot of stuff that made them fun to fly. But then the MBAs took over and want to squeeze every penny out of their customers just like every other airline. I guess it is not enough that they have posted continuous annual profits for 41 years.

    You can still standby on WN, you just have to upgrade your ticket to their highest price option. So they might as well have gotten rid of standby.

  • Michael__K

    As I recall, Delta and US Airways were still offering books of 10 or more fully flexible, very inexpensive tickets on their shuttle routes (BOS/LGA/DCA) as recently as 10 or 12 years ago.

    Most customers buy the cheapest tickets because that is the default option and because extra features are usually priced at a steep premium. The cost of a fully flexible ticket generally costs far more than any realistic marginal value of that flexibility, and it’s often bundled with extraneous privileges pertaining to upgrades and reward miles.

  • Bill___A

    Here’s the problem.
    One can somewhat predict how many storms there will be in a year, the number of planes affected by mechanical delays, etc. etc. These sorts of things can be budgeted for.

    Opening the floodgates wide open to any problem that any passenger encounters would make the floodgates “wide open” and makes it very difficult to budget the costs.

    Waiving the rules when there is a situation where a big storm is the issue is one thing. Changing the whole economic fundamentals of the business is quite a different issue.,

    Do you ever do a business case analysis before you come up with these rantings, or do you realistically expect that a travel business could survive with no rules at all with respect to their capacity control?

    It is getting old.

    And I thought you said you were going to quit picking on elites. When I read that, I thought in my head, “I wonder how long that’ll last?”. Sure enough, it didn’t last long.

  • Brooklyn

    That’s exactly my point! Some people are saying that air travel was a luxury back then and that if we want it to be affordable for the masses, we have to put up with all the new rules. It’s not true: lots of ordinary people were flying on a fairly regular basis.

  • Brooklyn

    Your grandparents were used to staying put, driving or taking the bus or train, but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have flown if they’d known what it actually cost. My parents had moved to the other side of the country after WWII and at some point in the 60’s they realized that we no longer had to drive to get there. We weren’t rich, but we were motivated.

  • The Original Joe S

    Sure is. That’s when they sealed Joan Collins in the pyramid after Jack Hawkins died…..

  • The Original Joe S

    It’s so cold here en la Nueva York that tonight David Letterman said he saw a squirrel putting salt on his nuts.

  • MarkKelling

    We had relatives in Puerto Rico and Panama (they worked for the US government) and my grandparents visited every couple years. They would drive to wherever they could catch a ship to get there. I’m sure they looked at the cost of flying and decided either they couldn’t afford it or they simply preferred the boat.

    Not knowing my grandparent’s income or true financial situation, I can’t guess which option made them choose the boat, but I do recall my grandfather mentioning how outrageous the price was to fly the final time they made the trip. They went by boat.

  • LostInMidwest

    OK, guys, why is nobody asking a better question : if traveling is so important (business) to so many people, why in the world do we rely on ONE mode of transportation, period. It certainly doesn’t help that the chosen mode of transportation hiccups when weather just stirs after the sleep and comes to a full halt when weather comes out to actually play.

    Trains do not care for snowstorms, ice, hurricane winds … and so on. Even an Autobahn would be at least twice better than this. On average, of course, don’t be daft – you cannot drive in THIS current weather, but mostly you can when airlines fall like dominoes. And if you drive from Dallas to Phoenix, you are not affected with what’s going on @ JFK and ORD. When you fly the same route … you are affected.

    Not to mention … high speed trains and Autobahn on which you could average 100 mph would do a thing that not Congress not POTUS and certainly not “free market” can do for you – which is to make the airlines kiss the feet of their customers.

    Wasn’t that a goal of this mass moaning anyway?

  • Brooklyn

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could still take ships, not for a cruise but to get somewhere? My own grandmother (born shortly after the end of the civil war) was terrified of airplanes. When she was very old and we absolutely had to get her across the country, my parents told her she was going to take the “flying bus”. Once she got there, she said “you know, I think that flying bus had its wheels off the ground almost all the way”!

  • E_Woman

    The problem for me is there is no middle ground when
    it comes to airfares. You can pay a little for a basic, no frills seat to get
    you from A to B, no refunds, no changes, etc. Or you can pay obscenely more for
    premium, bag check, early boarding, fully refundable. A random search for a
    one-week round trip from San Diego to JFK turned up cheap seats at $431, high
    end for $1,461 – more than triple the cost. First class was almost $3,000. I
    would be happy to pay somewhat more to include everything but 3X plus is
    ridiculous.

  • Innkeeper

    As the owner/innkeeper of a small B & B I can say there are an awful lot of parents and grandparents who die conveniently, illnesses, and other reasons we are expected to “show compassion” about when the “Public” has reserved rooms – which is a contract, you reserve and I hold that room for you to occupy – at several places in the area and then at the last minute looks to see which one is best, cancelling the others with excuses. We are small. We have bills to pay and each reservation takes that room out of inventory. Last minute cancels cannot be filled by someone else. We have to survive also. But sorry, I forgot, business is the enemy and the customer is always right – all the way to bankruptcy.

  • leftcoastsportsbabe

    this sort of thing is why you STILL use a travel agent.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    “enough compassion”? The travel industry shows so little compassion to 95% of their customers that it’s nearly invisible.

  • Bill___A

    I have said this many times but seem to get called out for it, as if the obscenely high or very low should be the only two options. I agree with you.

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