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Getting it Wrong (again)

Aegean Airlines

In the last post, we looked at United and how they really need to rethink their unbundling.

Getting things not entirely correct, however, is not confined to the New World; in Europe, as well, airlines can be quite good at finding their feet ..... taking careful aim and shooting at them.

I recently booked a one way flight from London to Athens on Aegean Airlines, one of the Star Alliance carriers who like to think that the three fare level "thing" is really rather neat. In this instance, the lowest fare was booked, meaning no bags, though being able to change for a 50 Euros fee, plus fare uplift. Bags could be bought later, if needed.

The fare rule looks like this:

Aegean Fare

Fair enough. The usual situation with any lower fare, is to charge a fee along with any uplift, which uplift will depend on how busy any given flight may be. This is an excellent system - if you buy a very cheap fare, then you will more than likely pay an uplift, if a more expensive fare is originally purchased, then you may get away with just having to pay the change fee. This offers any airline and customer a logical process; the amount of uplift paid will depend on how much was paid originally and on how busy any new flight may be. Paying 50 Euros for administration (as it were) is also defensible. In the States of America change fees have been made, however, into something of an art form. Charging upwards of $200 for what is, in effect, administration seems rather churlish; additional airline revenue should stem from the fare uplift.

The client in my case changed their mind and decided they wanted to travel business class as they had to hit the ground running in Athens. No problem, I concluded, given the above. Then I found that I could not upgrade the present ticket. This I found most strange and contacted Aegean. "Computer says No" was the reply. The business class cabin was empty-ish, so why was Aegean turning down £443.10?

Much further (in GDS terms that's 3 pages further, which is a long way!) comes this:

Aegean Fares

You can change the flights but you cannot change the flights even though you can change the flights for 50 Euros. The Aegean Airlines website does not help very much either. The "Fare Rule" explanations are only found via a tiny link right at the bottom of the page and even then, require a significant amount of time for the user to work their way through endless rules relating to where they are going from and to. Interestingly, Aegean put a little sticker on their "standard" fare type saying "Best Value" - without any explantion as to why that may be the case. "Why is it best value?" one may ask... "...because it just is, right!" is about all the information forthcoming.

Now comes the good bit. All rules talk about "changes" website and GDS - there is no mention of upgrading. There is certainly no rule that states: "These fares cannot be upgraded".

One can understand that if you buy the "Light" fare, then that cannot be changed to another fare type in the same cabin. Why would you want to? Any fare can be changed for 50 Euros and a fare uplift. What makes no sense at all, is why one cannot upgrade to the next cabin.

Legacy airlines do have an issue with trying to get on a par with low cost airlines. Their problem seems to be, in trying to meld the chargeable extras made in the low cost arena with the day to day living in the legacy world; hence the rather slapstick oddities, such as the above situation, which arise constantly.

Nearly all airlines have an issue with customers; they find it hard to deal with them. Airlines are suppliers of a service and not retailers; seemingly failing to grasp that the interaction with any customer should be from the basis of providing, as far as possible, what the customer wishes rather than employing people whose primary task is to bend the will of customers to any given suppliers way of doing things. This is compounded by airlines having a history of dealing with customers of value - historically, an airline ticket represented a major demand on an individuals' income; there was no need to place restrictions on any service product as the charge made for the service was enough to cover the services and comfort offered.

Since the advent of the Low Cost Carriers, legacy airlines struggle with the correlation of level of service and that the new breed of customer, many of whom are no longer of such a great value, regard air travel - especially legacy air travel - as a luxury item.

Those long standing customers who are used to "traditional" fares, likewise struggle to understand restrictions placed upon them and make assumptions which are no longer valid; rather than simplifying fares, airlines have created a duopoly of misery. Old customers are irritated that what they pay demands all sorts of add-ons to achieve the service they were once used to, whilst new customers find that the very factors that differentiated a legacy airline from a low cost airline, no longer exist and so, are disappointed by their experience.

The upshot, though, is reflected above. Through a lack of understanding of both the customer and how to fit into the new world of aviation, (and in this instance, logic) opportunities are missed.

**Addendum: The client, at Heathrow, offered the airline £443.10, cash, to upgrade the seat. Nope. The ticket desk, on the airlines behalf, refused. The check in at LHR were as helpful as they could be ... despite this ... Bravo! Aegean! You have a system that makes £78 extra in bag fees .... and yet, throws away £443 ... for no other reason than, well: "It's more than my job's worth, mate".

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