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American Airlines to Move to A La Carte (A La Air Canada) Pricing in 2009

The AP is reporting that American Airlines will move to an a la carte pricing model in 2009, mirroring the pricing scheme that Air Canada has had in place for about 5 years.  You will complain initially, but in the end you will agree with me that it’s the best option.  The short version is that you will pay for a base fare, with everything else added on (or subtracted).  Assuming it works just like Air Canada (and details are not yet available), you’ll pay a couple of dollars less if you don’t check a bag.  You’ll pay more if you want full frequent flyer miles.   And so on.  If you want really cheap, they’ll give it to you – but you’ll only be getting the flight.  Trust me, it’s the fairest way to go without feeling nickel and dimed.  The biggest issue for Air Canada is that the GDSs – the systems travel agents use to book tickets – have not been able to support this pricing structure.  Sabre (the largest GDS in the US) says they have solved that problem, but it remains to be seen.  More details will come in the next few months…

Look for other airlines to match.  Until times get good again, and then everything will be thrown out the window.

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  1. Sorry, but a-la-carte pricing is still a consumer ripoff. What it shows that airlines don’t have confidence in their own product, and they can’t sell other products. Why do people bring Big macs on a plane (cost $2) when they could buy a nice meal on a plane ($10). Answer: The big mac actually tastes better than the airline food.

    In other news: BA long flights down 8.6%. At this rate of demand destruction airlines will be tripping over themselves to move back to full service. Ryanair and EasyJet have 20% and 17% growth last quarter.

    In other words: airlines will begin to save themselves when they stop marketing to business travelers that don’t exist, and build themselves around consumer sales.

  2. I, a paying Air Canada customer, love “a la carte pricing”. I can choose the cheapest fare with higher change fees and lower aeroplan miles. Or I can choose the most versatile fare, be able to change any time, get full aeroplan miles and have access to the lounge for 25$ if I so choose to. I can decide not to check any bags and deduct 3$ per leg, I can forgo aeroplan miles and deduct another 3$ per leg, etc. I can use my flight pass [I have a 10 credit/leg northeast pass] if I’m last minute and fares are too steep. I can prepay for food, buy it on the plane or simply bring my big mac on board. Personally, I love AC for it. Whether that makes economic sense for the airline to do that and if profitable, I don’t know. Seems like a good idea [money saver] to incite/reward customers not to check any bags. If airlines could reward good flyers who clean up after themselves, who use their towels to clean to wash basin, etc. believe me, I’d be all for rewarding that and for quicker airplane turn arounds (lower fares). But not everything can be validated and rewarded. Fewer bags being rewarded seems the way to go (psychologically, for Joe Customer like me, it feels better than to pay 20$ per bag). I “feel” less ripped off, more rewarded. In the end, it’s really how you make the customer feel that’s important. The other thing that I love AC for in recent years is how they are “more and more” transparent. They actually tell us why a plane is late, when it’s coming, etc. They used to lie (it’s the weather) all the time, now they have really good agents at the gates. Whether that’s a policy or just amazing gate agents everywhere I go, I sure love to know the truth without having to call up my friends/contacts at Air Canada who can actually tell me what is “really” going on. Nowadays, my friends and the gate agents have the same info and I have less and less to resort to my special contacts ;-)

    Bottom line, as I always say: let the customer choose, be truthful and they will love you ;-) We all understand “when stuff comes up”, most of us have brains and can understand [most delays can be explained in 20 seconds or less].

    P.S. no, I didn’t drink the Air Canada cool-aid, they also have issues, like I sometimes suspect them of canceling flights to fill up later flights (it suspectfully happens when a flight can fully fit in the next flight). But I can’t prove that and it could just be paranoid Pierre speaking ;-) Overall, I love and learned not to catch one of those “problematic” flights ;-)

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