We all know how airline fees are going straight up. It’s getting to be an axiom that if an airline can charge a fee, it will.
Increasingly, in the “misery loves company department,” the fees are not just for travelers themselves anymore — they are spreading the pain. Airlines have always charged travel agents for mistakes, known as “debit memos.”
But a more recent development is charging an additional fee on top of the mistake. British Airways, for example, charges agencies a $100 penalty per ticket PLUS whatever they deem the cost of the mistake to be. Sometimes airlines charge, well, just because they can.
Recently, in our office, we had to change a ticket because of a spelling error. Because we have a preferred relationship with American Airlines, they only charged us $25 to do it.
So our agent took the incorrect ticket and corrected it using our airline GDS computer. (GDS’s are systems that allow agents to book on almost all airlines and to make hotel and car reservations. They are not exactly modern technology.) End of problem, right? Wrong.
Our accountant, doing the weekly report that all agencies send to airlines, noticed that the passenger appeared to have two valid tickets. Normally, what happens when agents exchange tickets is that the first ticket is invalidated and shows “exchanged.” This didn’t happen.
So we called the computer help desk. (It’s Galileo, for any travel agents reading this.) They said it was a problem they had sometimes with American, nothing we had done wrong, but eventually told us to contact the airline as they would need ticketing details.
Okay, fine. However, when we called American, they said they would fix the problem, but for a $50 fee. The fact that it wasn’t an agency mistake was irrelevant; it was simply their policy.
After several calls back and forth, the end result was pay the $50 or risk a bigger bill later. (Not to mention a possible problem at the airport.) As one of our help desk people said, “American apparently really needs the money.”
Faced with the same situation travelers are faced with all the time, “Pay or else,” we paid. (The good news in this case, our computer provider just agreed to reimburse us.) But like travelers, we’re are wondering what the airlines will decide to charge us for next.