Jason Cochran

Stuff you never knew you never knew

Take a look at the screen grab below. To the left is an air ticket priced by a passenger who is signed in as a Delta Air Lines frequent flier. To the right is the same itinerary, except this one is quoted on a separate Web browser, without signing in. They were priced at the same time.

Delta wants to charge the passenger who signed in $79.30 more for the same flights.

The search happened when the passenger needed to change an existing reservation. Notice that the first legs on these itineraries register as a different fare class (T or K). For whatever reason, the frequent flier was not offered the lowest-priced fare leg. (Nice catch, @SimonTravels.) That bumps up the cost of the ticket for the SkyMiles member by nearly $80.

How much does Delta stand to make from all the passengers who fail to notice this discrepancy? Few customers do price checks in separate browsers when they need to change a reservation, so ripoffs like this, if they happen, go undetected.

When Delta was telephoned for a price quote of the same flights, the lower price was offered there, too.

The cheap price simply wasn’t given to the person who had signed in as a customer and attempted to conduct a flight change online.

Let me reiterate my common warning: Whether it’s intentional or not, online airline pricing is a shrouded world prone to shifts that will rarely be in your favor. Always check your flight reservation prices on several browsers, including one without cookies enabled and with the cache cleared.

If you’ve ever searched for an airfare and seen the price suddenly leap higher when you went back to double-check an earlier option, you know how manipulatable, and how unreliable, online searches can be. Always go to a brand new browser and compare what you get there.

And if there is any disparity, contact the airline. In Delta’s case, it honored the lower price, although so far it has not accounted for how this highly suspicious overcharging happened.

Delta’s customer service Twitter account, @DeltaAssist, is looking into this. The phone rep apologized “for the inconvenience” but admitted no fault.

Delta overcharge for SkyMiles members

Left: Signed in. Right: Anonymous on another browser. Frequent fliers are asked to pay nearly $80 more without being offered the cheaper option. Click to embiggen.

 

Update: @DeltaAssist offered the following excuse by Twitter DM: “Fares fluctuate based on avail – not on whether you’re a SkyMiles member or not. When you reissued your ticket you got it at $528.80 … If you were to reprice now, that fare class is no longer avail which is why it’s more.”

My response: “These were checked simultaneously. How do you account for differing fare classes offered to me?”

For my readers: The lower price was obtained only after I discovered (through the second browser) that it was available, and I phoned Delta to object. Both fares were double-checked. First, the signed-in quote, then the anonymous/new browser one, then back to re-price the SkyMiles quote. Neither quote budged over the course of it. At that point, the screen grab was made, so claiming fluctuating fares as a defense is not a realistic in this case. The issue here seems to be one of fare classes being offered (K versus the cheaper T), a facet of the query that Delta has so far not addressed.

For more on this issue, read my follow-up post on it.

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4 comments. Add a Comment:

  1. Well ‘told’ Jason – as you know, that is all to common nowadays!

  2. I am a frequent flier with Delta and just booked a great deal with them last week. I just RIPPED Southwest Airlines for an online bait and switch in which they were offering an airfare sale but when clicking on the link for the fare, it changed. Meanwhile the advertised airfare sale and links to it were active.

    I just got a call back this week from Southwest and they have gotten back to me. I have yet to follow up but here’s my frustration. It’s difficult as it is to find low fares because many people don’t know which sites to look on. Even when they do, a bait and switch or offering different fare classes for the same flight is not an acceptable practice.

    Just recently, I ripped airlines for common practices they do that would not be acceptable if we were dealing with other businesses. For far too long, we have just accepted this crap. However, what can we do to fight back other than push for more rights with the passenger bill of rights? Unfortunately in the US, airlines have a monopoly on travel and this needs to change.

  3. […] Delta charges more for signing in as a frequent flier […]

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