What Airlines Aren’t Telling You

What Airlines Aren't Telling YouI love to fly. Whether I am shooting down to Florida for a conference, or flying to the other side of the globe for a vacation, the entire concept of flying just excites me each and every time. The experience is full of cool moments from the anticipation of packing, to boarding, take off, new in-flight Wi-Fi, and finally landing. Of course, red-eye flights are an exception.

There are so many different airlines to choose from as well. You have Delta or Continental, and AirTran . I am one to shop based on price, but no matter where you are going, I am sure there is an affordable flight on one of these airlines. I have no preferred airline, but a recent Southwest experience made me appreciate their business model.

From planning the trip to buying the tickets to the entire flying experience, there is still some thing things that the airlines are just not telling you. From delays to canceled flights to over crowded airlines and rude flight attendants, there is always something to complain about when boarding an aircraft. It doesn’t matter if you’ve flown only once, or over a thousand times. But what are airlines not telling us?

This aircraft is packed.

Nearly every flight that you fly will be full. Why is that? It’s because airlines hate flying with empty seats. Every time there is an empty seat on a plane, the airline loses money. Or, they will over book your flight. But wait a second; overbook a flight? Then that means that theoretically there will be a flight that has more passengers than it does seats. That happens every day, and if you can find an overbooked flight and you have a few extra hours to spare, you can benefit form that greatly.

This is the very reason airlines overbook. They want every seat to have a body in it. But if you get to a flight that is overbooked and full, then you get the opportunity to take a later flight in return for a free round trip ticket. Now, granted, the airline loses money by offering you that free airline ticket, but they lose less money this way because their flight is guaranteed to be full.

I recently had a flight that was overbooked. I was asked to take a later flight in return for a free round trip ticket to wherever they flew. I said yes, ended up getting the chance to have a beer and a snack before my next flight, and only got home a few hours late. Sure, I had to go through a layover on the way home, but that was nothing. Consider this: my flight to Aruba this summer will be free of charge.

Where are your frequent miles taking you?

I have been asked every time I fly to sign up for a frequent flier program. I have, since they are all free, and each time I fly, I rack up points left and right. But let’s say that I fly somewhere and I am awarded 5,000 frequent flier miles. That does not mean that I get to fly said number of miles on a future flight,. It just means the miles are placed into whatever that particular airlines program calls for. And be aware, some of these airlines are starting to write a limit on the time you can take before using these hard earned miles. When I received my free round trip airline ticket, I was given a year to use it or lose it. Make sure you check your inbox for warnings on your frequent flier miles’ expiration dates.

Getting cheaper tickets through the airline itself?

Airlines hate to give discounts for air travel. From the discounts they offer through services like Priceline and Travelocity, to the lower rates they give places like Kayak and Yahoo! Travel, they hate to shave money off the top to get you on that next flight. Airlines actually prefer that you book through them. If you do this, will one, save money, but two, get better service? If you book, via Priceline, for example, and get to the airport and are on an overbooked flight, the folks who purchased his or her ticket directly through the airline will get a seat before you. This builds loyalty with the airline and forces stricter regulations with ticket holders.

I love booking everything under one price. When we went to Hawaii we booked our hotel, rental car, and airline tickets for one price. We paid one price for all of the taxes and fees, and ended up having to swipe the credit card only once to get everything taken care of. We also saved some $1,500 for booking them all together than by booking them individually.

Since when did you expect there to be good service?

Customer service is not the airlines’ number one priority. A recent flight showed me that. I was in a row of seats with two other people. I sat down first and there was a single pillow and blanket sitting in the middle chair. It was a late flight and I wanted to get some sleep, so I asked the flight attendant for an extra pillow. She said, “Sir, we are not providing extra pillows. You can share that one.”

They expected me to share a pillow, and a blanket, with three strangers. No thank you. Later, after asking another attendant the same question, I realized I was not getting a pillow that flight. Now some airlines are even charging you to use a pillow. You can pay one price and get a pillow and some other necessities for your trip. If I were going a long distance like to, say, China, then I would need a pillow. But I was just going to Florida, so it was not that bad of a hike.

So where exactly do we get our pricing?

Even airlines have no idea how they make price points are coming from. I can book a flight today for a month from now and pay one price and three days from now the same ticket will go up or down in price for no reason. Gas prices are not changing that much, and the flight cannot possibly be having that high of a turn over. If anything, prices should go up over time. But, look at a company like Southwest Airlines. When they started many years ago, they were smart. They chose an oil company and made a deal. They said point-blank, we will pay you $0.75 a gallon for gasoline for the next thirty years. The gas company, then selling gas for $0.45 a gallon said why not? We are already making money, now lets just make more money. Look what happened. Gas is over $3.00 a gallon and they are still paying less than a buck.

So gas is not the biggest issue. When it comes to setting the price, issues include mileage, the number of paying folks on that plane, the quality of seat you get such as first-class or coach, and the availability of seats on the flight. I have flown on planes before with only me and a handful of other people on the flight. But I’ve also  flown on flights that were booked the moment I tried to book it. High travel sports like LA and Las Vegas area also going to cost more since that is a high travel destination.

Long delays are our fault, as well as our outdated equipment.

Not just the last time you flew on an airplane, but every time you fly on an airplane, you are going to be delayed. That is just how it goes. Not that you did anything wrong, you were at the airport two hours early, only to sit through a long line in security, to sit in a long line to get your seat assignment, to sit and wait on a delay for your flight to arrive, de-plane, board again, and take off. But why are you sitting there waiting for all of these delays when the airlines know exactly what is causing it? It is faulty and old equipment that is simply not being replaced for whatever the reason.

The last flight I was on, the folk behind the counter were typing on a keyboard so old that the letters had rubbed off due to frequent use. The screen was not a flat LCD screen but rather a large CRT monitor that looked like a TV from the eighties. However, the flight that I was about to get on was only a few years old and the gate, agents seemed to work just fine with this older and obviously outdated equipment. They don’t have a choice. The airlines are not spending money on equipment that they believe will still do the job. The worst part about all of this is that the airline staff knows their equipment is old and outdated. All they do is smile, apologize, and you sit there and wait until whatever issue is fixed.

Needless to say, we all have no choice but to fly to the majority of the destinations that we desire. We also have no say to these airlines. Sure, you might get a few free frequent flier miles, a handful of upgrades to first class, or a free round trip flight here and there, but even that flight will suffer from all of these same issues. The airlines are not changing, you are still paying outrageous prices to book your flight, and they still make record profits year after year. Get used to it. Welcome to the new definition of the friendly skies.