Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Airfares Up, Likeability Down

The American Customer Satisfaction Index has just been released. As always it reveals not only the companies that score kudos but the ones consumers loathe. The results are an aggregate of thousands of customer satisfaction and other types of surveys, and the results ain't good for the airline industry. Taking the #2 and #3 spot, ABOVE the hated Bank of America, are Delta and American Airlines. Wow, to be hated more the bank that wants to charge customers for using debit cards? That's some dubious achievement.

Probably won't help their likeability that the airlines have raised their rates for the second time this week. According to the Associated Press, unpopular Delta was the first to increase fares by between $4 and $10 for domestic routes. United and Continental quickly matched. If Southwest matches, the increases will likely stick.

After another quarter in the red, these increases show investors that the airlines are trying to become profitable. What they show consumers is that they'd better book soon, especially for holiday flights, or they could be paying much, much more to get home to see Grandma.

Some advice:
  • Domestic sales tend to pop late on Mondays, so book travel on Tuesday or Wednesday when the other airlines match. Try not to book on a weekend as that's when fares increase (the airlines know consumers use their time away from work to research and book fares.They see an uptick in the number of bookings and respond with upticks in pricing).
  • Don't assume two one-way tickets will be more expensive than a round-trip. That's not always the case nowadays (so search for those, too)
  • Alas, non-stops are often pricier these days. If you need to save, consider spending some time along the way in an airport
  • Be flexible on dates and airports, as it could pay off bigtime.
  • Get the broadest search possible with such sites as Kayak.com, DoHop.com and Hipmunk.com
I'm actually NOT an airline hater. While I dislike their habit of adding extra fees and hiding real prices from consumers, I find that their staffs generally are well-trained, friendly and polite. Most are doing very hard jobs with dignity and good humor. The economics of the business have been very hard for quite some time, what with the ever fluctuating cost of fuel, plus scares and recessions that keep people at home. I wish them well, but I still don't want to pay too much for tickets, and I don't want you, dear reader, to do so either.

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