Monday, January 16, 2006

Alaska Air to begin charging $10 for reservations made by phone

Effective Jan. 18 and non-refundable $10 non-refundable fee will be charged for tickets purchased through their 800 number or at the airport.  My wife pointed this out to me today when she went to purchase a ticket through the 800 number, so I called myself and the message is played before you enter the IVR system.  The message further directs you to visit where there are never fees and the prices are usually lower.

There is no information about this change on the Alaska Air website, but, as my wife pointed out, this change does not affect anyone using the website, so there’s no reason to publish it there.

I’ve go to tell you that I don’t have a problem with this new system except for 1 instance: the reason my wife was calling today was to change a ticket that I had purchased and not used, which already comes with a $50 change fee.  Does this now mean that because there’s no way to change a non-used ticket on their website that it would have been $50 + $10 + whatever the difference in fare is?  Not cool to direct people to use your website for everything if you can’t do everything on their websites.

If I had to pay $10 for ticketing on Alaska and I knew it before I called the 800 number, I would expect to speak to someone in less than 30 seconds.  After all, if I’m funding the call center, then I would expect immediate service, not an IVR system.

It will be interesting to see how Alaska implements this fee structure and what customers’ reactions are to it.  In the hypercompetitive airline business, it doesn’t seem like a sustainable program to me — everything else being equal (i.e., I could fly at about the same time for exactly the same price) and I wanted to book over the phone, I would never choose Alaska.

Call the number yourself — 800–252–7522 and you can hear the announcement.

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