What Allegiant’s “unsubscribe” video reveals about low-cost carriers

By | January 6th, 2016

If you happen to be subscribed to Allegiant’s “latest deals” newsletter, and if you happen to try to unsubscribe, you might experience what Tom Plunkett did.

“You have to watch a promotional video for their company and then get the secret code at the end,” he says. “Enter the code into the space provided to unsubscribe.”


“Utterly ridiculous,” adds Plunket. “Could this be illegal?”

Strangely, it’s not. The 2003 CAN-SPAM law doesn’t prevent this kind of opt-out.

The Federal Trade Commission’s guidance for businesses mentions nothing about the precise mechanics of unsubscribing:

Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future.

Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read and understand. Creative use of type size, color and location can improve clarity.

Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you.

In other words, Allegiant found a loophole. Gotcha!

But while most of the online complaints about this deceptive way to unsubscribe have stopped here, I think we need to connect a few dots. After all, Allegiant is the same airline that charges for carry-on luggage, and is continually coming up with new fees for its passengers, claiming that people asked for them.

Related story:   These United tickets are pretty screwed up. Can you help?

Mmm hmmm.

This is more of an indication of how Allegiant feels about you, the customer. Instead of offering a one-click method for getting off its email newsletter, it forces you to watch yet another commercial message — precisely the kind of message you’ve indicated you don’t want.

So when an airline like Allegiant says people are asking for fees, it kind of makes you wonder: Does it mean “asking” in the same way it thinks people are asking to be unsubscribed from its newsletter?

As in, “Yeah, they’re complaining about our fees now — but they can’t resist our low fares. They’ll be back.”

I have never heard from a customer who wants more fees, just as I’ve never heard from a newsletter subscriber who asked to watch a video to get a secret code to unsubscribe.

That kind of thinking is disingenuous, customer-hostile, and obtuse. And it’s exactly the type of attitude that made Allegiant the worst airline in America.

In an industry that’s been drained of competition by a series of anti-competitive mergers, Allegiant’s confidence that we’ll return sounds a little like the claims made by the managers of the state-owned grocery stores in the Soviet Union.

“They complain,” says the corrupt functionary running the store. “But they’ll be back tomorrow.”

Of course they will. Where else will they go?

Could it be that in a misguided effort to increase competition, we’ve ended up with attitudes that rival those in a discredited command-and-control economy? Maybe the free-marketers out there should stick that in their pipe and smoke it for a while. See how it tastes.

Related story:   After hell froze over, we got this letter from Ryanair

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