David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
More Airlines And Restaurants
In 2015 I wrote a blog titled ďIf airlines were restaurants.Ē It was a riff off of the humorous piece ďIf Airlines Sold PaintĒ that has been floating around the industry for many years.†† The US airline industry has operated in such a backwards and customer-unfriendly manner for so long that it is easy to compare it to normal parts of life and show how nothing they do makes sense.†††
Today I have a corollary to that story of airlines and restaurants.† This comparison does not report on a new situation in the industry, but it is the first time Iíve participated in this particular gamble, so I figured it was fair game for me.
This is all based on the complex and crazy schemes that United makes its travelers go through to get an international upgrade.† If one wants to upgrade from coach one has to spend miles and give cash in advance Ėeven if there is no upgrade available.† Thatís correct Ė they charge you in advance for something they arenít giving you and may never give you, then make you wait for a refund if you didnít get it.† I tried to find a link that explains this in simple terms for non-United travelers, but (as should be no surprise) I couldnít find one.
Customer: Whatís on the dinner menu this evening?
Restaurant: We have a very nice turkey sandwich with chips for $39, and we have full roast turkey dinner for $3,000.†
Customer: Wow, really Ė thatís it?† Just those two choices, and a $2,961 difference between the two?† Thatís a pretty steep cost for a meal that doesnít seem like itís that much better.
Restaurant: Our restaurant believes that our premium meals are worth every penny of the cost.† The chairs are more comfortable, the tables are roomier, and the related services are well worth the cost.
Customer: Iím sorry, itís just too much for me to pay.† Donít you have any options between the two?
Restaurant: Well, we could let you buy the sandwich and submit a request to upgrade to the full dinner.
Customer: How does that work?
Restaurant: First you have to buy the sandwich weeks or months in advance.† We wonít even discuss an upgrade with you unless we see youíre ďseriousĒ about eating at our restaurant regardless of whatís on the menu.† Then we charge you another $500 to be put on the waitlist for the full dinner.† We hold that money and do whatever we want to do with it until a day or two before the day of your reservation.† At that time, if we have any full dinners left over that people havenít paid the full $3,000 for, weíll let you have it for the $500.†††
Customer: So Iíll know a couple of days before my reservation if Iím going to get the full dinner?
Restaurant: Well, you may know, but itís not likely.† We may wait till youíre actually in our restaurant at one of the sandwich benches before we let you know if we are able to upgrade you to a full dinner.†
Customer: So I wonít even know what meal to prepare for when Iím on my way to the restaurant?
Restaurant: Iím sorry, no Ė we donít make any promises until right up until dinner time.
Customer: If I donít get the full dinner do I get my money back?
Restaurant: Of course.† We should process a refund of your upgrade fee within 30-45 days of your reservation.
Customer: Wait a minute.† You need to hold my money for a month or two before my reservation, not let me know if I can have the full dinner until my actual reservation time, and then, if you didnít give me the full dinner, you still get a month or two to give me the money back?† That means youíre keeping my money for up to four months?† What are you doing with it?
Restaurant: All sorts of things - investing it, collecting interest, buying restaurant supplies, etc. †We donít give you your money back till some other customers have bought the upgrade option for their sandwich, then we pay you back with their money.
Customer: That whole thing seems like an overly complex and unfair scheme to get a full dinner.† Isnít there anything else I can do thatís more simple?
Restaurant: Of course there is.† You can pay us the $3,000 today to get a guaranteed full dinner right now, and if you donít want to spend what we say itís worth then you can get a guaranteed turkey sandwich for $45 right now.†
Customer: $45?† You said it was $39?
Restaurant: I did, but in the time we spent talking about it all of the $39 sandwiches were purchased so only the $45 sandwiches are now available.†
Customer: Is the $45 one better than the $39 one?
Restaurant: No, theyíre exactly the same, itís just that we only sell a few of them at the lowest price.† If we see people actually want to buy them then we raise the price as much as we like. In fact, itís now $50.
Customer: Now Iíve lost my appetite.
As I write this blog Iím hearing that the US TSA has kicked the can down the road some more, extending the mask mandate on airlines until at least May 3rd.† Honestly, COVID19 is still raging, and we should all be wearing masks indoors and taking many other precautions, so this is a good thing.† Stay safe out there!
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.
As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree.† Hearing from the traveling community is always a highlight for me.† Thanks!