Filed under: Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:33 am
United Airlines issued a press release last week proclaiming that it ranked highest for on-time performance among its peers, based on the latest government statistics.
A closer look at the actual report from the Department of Transportation, however, tells a slightly different story.
2010 On-Time Arrivals
United is actually third best for on-time arrivals, because Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines were the actual number and number two ranked airlines.
So how could United claim superiority? One has to go back and look very carefully at exactly how they worded their claim. They actually said:
“United Ranks Highest For On-Time Performance Among Network Peers For 2010″
and then United qualified that even more by saying:
“United Airlines today announced the company was — for the second consecutive year — first in on-time performance for domestic scheduled flights among America’s five largest global carriers* for 2010.”
Last summer we pointed out a similar case when Dish Network claimed to be tops in customer satisfaction (because they cleverly didn’t count the actual number one and number two companies). We said then, and repeat now, that is kind of like Alamo declaring “We are number one (if you don’t count Hertz and Avis)”.
In United’s case, while every word they said was literally true, consumers could still come away with a false impression.
One thing that United didn’t issue a press release about was another statistic the government reported. According to that same study, what United really was number one in for the most recent month (December 2010) was — consumer complaints. They had 1.47 complaints per 100,000 emplanements — the worst record of the 18 air carriers surveyed.
Filed under: Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:00 am
Spirit Airlines advertised a $1 airfare sale a few months back. One dollar for a one-way flight? Two dollars roundtrip? Impossible!
Of course, the little asterisk indicates that taxes and fees are additional. How much extra? You have to look in three places on their website to find all the extra costs, which we consolidated in the chart below.
The quoted fare does not include the following taxes and fees that may apply to your air travel:
- September 11th Security Fee: A September 11th Security Fee of $2.50 applies per enplanement originating at a U.S. airport up to $10 per roundtrip.
- Domestic Segment Tax: A segment tax of $3.70 per U.S. domestic flight segment (a flight segment is defined as one takeoff and landing).
- Passenger Facility Charges (PFC): Up to $18 per round trip per passenger in local airport charges.
- Passenger Usage Fee: Passenger Usage Fee of $8 per traveling customer per one way travel applies to all reservations with the exception of those bookings created directly at Spirit Airlines’ airport locations.
- To view and obtain these fares you must be logged in as a member of the Spirit Airlines $9 Fare Club — if not already enrolled, please go to www.spiritair.com for details on how to become a member of the Spirit Airlines $9 Fare Club. [Membership costs $39.95]
- Overhead carry-on luggage checked at the gate: $45
So how much could a $2 roundtrip fare wind up costing, assuming non-stop flights in both directions, with one carry-on and no checked luggage? If you add up everything listed above, including the $9 club membership fee, the total is a whopping $178.35 for what was advertised as a $1 fare each way!
It seems if any company really believed in full disclosure, they would not advertise come-on fares that bear no relationship to the actual charges the customer will face.
If you were planning a trip and were warned by the airline that the flights you were thinking of taking only had four seats left at the price you found, you might be prompted to book immediately, right?
Well, it seems that United Airlines has taken to giving passengers such a warning on their website. For example, on the flights between Boston and Washington, DC leaving on October 27 and returning on October 29, a notice appeared warning that only four seats remain at the outrageous price of $497 plus taxes/fees for a particular flight. [See separate previous story about this high fare.] I better grab my seats, I thought to myself, before the price gets even higher.
Thinking that there might be more seats available on alternate flights the same day, I starting clicking all the various flight options shown.
As you can see, no matter what flight combination was chosen, whether it be six in the morning or nine at night, “only” four seats were left on EVERY flight in either direction. Coincidence? I think not. It looks like United is using a bit of a scare tactic, not unlike that used by timeshare hucksters — “this deal is available today only, if you delay, you will miss out”.
Since MrConsumer was going to fly to DC anyway, he decided to test United’s system to see if they were displaying an actual count of seats left. At the time of the test, it was not obvious that these were “code-share” flights actually operated by US Airways.
Below is the flight selection screen MrConsumer saw just prior to booking his flights. Note that supposedly only four seats are left at the price shown.
And here is a new fare selection page moments after one of the four remaining seats was purchased:
Hmmm… still only four seats available at the posted price after I bought one of them. Hmmmm. Incidentally, a check of their website three days later revealed the same “only 4 seats left” warning for all flights.
Mouse Print* asked United Airlines for an explanation of how it could be that “only 4 seats” were left on all these flights, and that the number did not decrease when a ticket was purchased.
“First, we are able to book certain codeshare partners (e.g., US Airways) on united.com, however we can only view 4 seats of their inventory at a time, when in fact there may be more available. This is a technical constraint.” — United media relations
It seems to me that United should not be displaying their “only 4 tickets left” warning when they know that it is not an accurate statement of the actual number of seats remaining on the flight.
It is not known how accurate these seat availability warnings are on regular United flights.
Filed under: Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:24 am
Airfares between Boston and Washington, DC — a flight that is only about one hour actually in the air — have skyrocked in recent years to as much as $518 roundtrip.
Take this trip from Wednesday October 27, 2010 until Friday that week:
Over $500 for a one hour flight is crazy, you have to agree, but that is the price being charged by US Airways, Delta, United and American.
Now, let’s price out that same flight, exactly one week later — leaving on Wednesday Nov. 3 and returning that Friday:
Wow… the fare fell to $149 from $518 on most major carriers – a more than 70% price drop. What’s going on here?
“JetBlue Airways today is proud to announce plans to serve the popular Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), its third airport in the Washington region, with seven daily nonstop flights to Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS) and one daily nonstop flight each to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Orlando International Airport (MCO) beginning November 1, 2010.” — JetBlue press release.
While there was plenty of competition in the Boston to DC market, there wasn’t any real price competition, until JetBlue, a low-cost carrier, entered the market. You really have to wonder how did it come to pass that all those legacy carriers uniformly charged that outrageous $518 price?