Friday, April 04, 2008

Fare Warning

Air Canada wasn't the first airline that came to mind when I read about this idea:
Air Canada to charge for customer service

Airline adds fee to aid customers when flights delayed or disrupted due to weather, traffic

It was bound to happen eventually: Air Canada now wants you to pay extra for better customer service.

In an era of continued cost-cutting, the country's largest airline yesterday rolled out a new service called "On My Way" that, for a fee, promises to help passengers cope with delays and cancellations beyond the airline's control, including bad weather or airport traffic.

"This is something that many airlines used to do in-house," said Rick Erickson, a Calgary-based airline consultant. "But since the advent of the low-cost carrier, everybody wants cheap fares."

Air Canada said passengers who opt to pay an additional $25 one-way on short-haul flights and an extra $35 one-way on long-haul routes within North America will receive "speedy" access to "specially-trained" customer service agents who will help rebook flights on Air Canada or other airlines, as well as pay for hotel stays and meals, if necessary.
At the risk of using a cliched phrase that I'm not a fan of, it's funny how business is now becoming a race to the bottom. Or it's a brilliant money-making proposition; given how many flights are delayed and screwed up in some way, it's a sure-fire way for airlines to get essentially free money. Of course, for $25 to $35, that customer service better be damn good. I guess it's kind of like a first-class upgrade, or it's based on the same principle: make every other class incredibly cramped and uncomfortable and then charge for comfort. Wait until they figure out that they could probably charge extra for clean air (assuming they don't already).

I have no doubt that this will soon turn up in more and more industries. Better check the fine print on your cellphone bill; I'm pretty sure that's where this idea will end up next.

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