It seems superfluous and redundant to rail against escalating add-on fees imposed by airlines, but how can I not?
For those of you in the dark (including Delta customer service reps, you’ll later see), Delta, US Airways and American Airlines are going to charge their “valued” award-miles customers money for using their “free” tickets. Delta’s fees start Aug. 15. I’m not sure about the others. For Delta, it’s $25 domestic and $50 other. The stated reason? Fuel surcharges, of course. They’re not charging *all* customers extra, mind you, only the valued ones.
Remember, all you dividend-miles holders, these miles are not “free.” They are what you earned and are part of a huge marketing scheme that has pulled in much revenue for the airlines and its legions of partners.
Something that really put me into a tailspin was some customers’ reactions to the surcharge in this article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Delta is based in Atlanta). One called it “a little unfair” and another said, “I don’t like the thought of having to pay it, but it’s part of what’s going on.”
Whatever happened to: We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”?
An interesting thing happened today when I was researching this. To back up, yesterday I sent an email to Delta customer service using their cumbersome process to complain about the new fees.
I got a form email back addressing not the upcoming fees I’d complained about but others I didn’t even know existed. Like, if you reserve less than three weeks out, you pay $100. Nice way to take advantage of valued customers in need of a flight.
Initially, when reading Delta’s email, I thought the new fee structure had changed. When I called customer service to check on it, the rep didn’t know about the Aug. 15 fee at all! She put me on hold twice and finally declared there was no surcharge. She was in Jamaica, so I thought maybe the news hadn’t traveled south. She transferred me to a supervisor, upon my request, who happened to be in Salt Lake City and totally on the ball, but even she didn’t know about the fees starting Aug. 15 — until I told her, that is. So I guess Delta values its poor employees about as much as it does its customers.
Luckily, my favorite consumer travel journalist and blogger Chris Elliott jumped right on Delta and other airlines about new fees, as I expected he would.
So did the always topical Michelle Higgins in this Practical Traveler column in the New York Times. What Michelle presented was particularly illuminating. For people who rack up miles mostly through their credit cards (like I do) she broke down the card fees and how long it takes to amass miles. For folks using their awards for domestic flights, they could potentially lose money. I use miles only for international flights. Deducting the card fees and new airlines surcharges, I’ll likely pay about $200 a ticket. But because I use the miles for flights that cost more than $500, and usually closer to $800-plus (like from North Carolina to Norway this summer), it’s still worth it financially if not spiritually for me to stick with what I have.
You should do your own calculations. As Michelle mentioned, it might save you money to switch to a no-fee card that gives you cash back.
Meanwhile, I’m sticking with my favorite airline — Southwest — whenever possible.