US airlines have just gotten $60 billion in government aid, and now they’re already looking for ways to skirt the terms that they agreed to. Unfortunately, that’s not surprising as airlines are one of the least trusted industries in the country (and that’s even before they showed up to pick the pockets of taxpayers for nearly $60 billion).
What you may find surprising is that this is hardly the first airline bailout as United Airlines filed for bankruptcy in 2002, Delta filed in 2005, and American Airlines predecessor US Airways filed both 2002 and 2004 and ultimately American Airlines itself filed in 2011. Yup, the taxpayers have paid for all of them to stay in business each and every time.
IT GETS WORSE
However, if there’s one thing consumers thought they could trust, it’s that if an airline flight doesn’t operate a flight, we (the passengers) can get a refund.
In fact, it’s the law. The Department of Transporatation says:
If your flight is cancelled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.
THEFT BY DECEPTION
Airlines are so desperate to conserve cash that many have made it as hard as possible to get refunds by misleading consumers into believing they aren’t entitled to one, updating their websites by deleting the refund links, burying/hiding the refund links deeper into their website pages, and just outright refusing.
Among the BIG US3, United Airlines has been the worst! There have been countless stories of United not only refusing to refund but also charging customers cancelation fees and/or redeposit fees for award tickets. A DOUBLE WHAMMY! We’ve seen the airline change their policies almost daily for the past week so it’s been challenging to even understand what the “policy” was, but each iteration overall has been extremely customer unfriendly.
Needing money though (particularly without providing the service) isn’t an excuse to take money that belongs to someone else. People don’t trust airlines to keep their promises to begin with, now customers are learning airlines may not even have to follow the law.
As I wrote several days ago, the Canadian government publicly said that airlines in Canada can now keep customer money for canceled flights as long as they provide a voucher valid for up to two years.
I predict this move will hurt the entire airline industry in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong, airlines are in a crazy position but these airlines aren’t even thinking about a future beyond next week and are willing to sacrifice their future to survive today.
The actions that they’re taking today make buying tickets extremely risky going forward. The idea of buying deals now for future travel is jeopardized because of the uncertainty of what schedules will look like in the future.
For example, one game the airlines are playing is saying “we’re waiving change fees” on new tickets in an attempt to increase sales and make the customer feel like there is less risk. However, here’s a fact….there will be many changes to flight schedules going forward based on what countries are open for travel, and where there’s demand, so any airline ticket purchased TODAY is subject to not operate TOMORROW.
And if you buy a new ticket, and the airline changes its plans, there’s a high probability that you WILL NOT get your money back. Given this, why would anyone buy a ticket for a future flight?
Taking it a bit further, United has said they needed the bailout “to cover the payrolls and prevent layoffs.” However, they have also publicly said they’re just not laying off anyone for 5 months but will continue furloughing employees until then. What was the money for then!?
Stealing is never a good look and airlines are doing just that. The part that’s even more surprising is that governments are willing to support it.
It’s not only a bad business model, but short sighted, immoral, illogical and unsustainable.
The average American takes 2 flights per year so I assume airlines are not depending on those customers to keep the airline afloat financially.
Personally, I spend a good portion of my income on flights and I don’t have one flight scheduled at the moment not because I don’t want to fly but because airlines want to give me vouchers instead of returning my money. In this instance airlines can’t depend on their “frequent fliers” either. So who remains?
What do you make of the airlines choices? Do you have any flights scheduled at the moment?