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"Test Case" Sparks Fare Changes


Reading through "Lufthansa Experts" news (a must read for anyone selling air travel) I found a surprising news item, which has received little attention.

Any agent who sells "branded" fares knows - or rather, "knew" - that the branded "Light" fare meant no refund, no seat reservation, no hold bag and (most irritatingly) no changes. If you had to change your flight, then you had to buy a new ticket. This applied to any light fare and it did not matter if you had paid £198.90 (if the flight is empty) or £620.30 (if the flight is full) for your ticket. The rule applied to "Light" fares on Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines.

This has now changed. From the 7th March of this year, "light" fares which start from the UK can be changed for a fee of 70 Euros, plus any fare uplift (that is, if the flight you wish to change to is full, you will have to pay the fare difference). It is very surprising that this change, this very welcome change, has not received more attention.

There is a rather enigmatic comment from Lufthansa in that the change is referred to as a "Test Case". That said, I cannot find any other reference to what the "test case" actually is. It is clearly tied up with some EU regulation. Suffice it to say, that the change is "temporary" whilst whatever the "Test Case" is, runs its course.

That you could pay £198.90 for a journey or £620.30 for the same journey yet receive no material benefit for the extra £421 you have paid has always struck me as being irrational. In the days when we had (in my opinion) the much more traditional fare structure in Europe, you did receive some benefits in terms of flexibility and what you received, depending on the amount paid. The principle that "the more full any particular flight became, the more you had to pay" does make sense. That you had to pay an awful lot more and still find yourself with the same conditions attached to your purchase, as that of someone who had paid a fraction of the price, did not.

To my mind, there should be a cut off point with regard to conditions. You cannot ask someone to pay £600 plus rather than £198 and then expect that person to feel happy about not having any benefits for the extra £421 other than simply being able to get on a full aircraft.

Branded fares among the legacy carriers need a rethink.

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