Austrian Air is offering an interesting way for its fliers to purchase business class upgrades via auction. By naming their price, Austrian’s customers are bidding on the chance to enjoy business class amenities for economy class prices. The catch is that fliers must submit their
bids when booking their flights – then 72 hours before takeoff, Austrian will accept or deny their offers. This is an innovative strategy, but the timing of the airline's upgrade offer doesn’t coincide with the natural buying behavior of fliers. In our business traveler survey, we found that airlines are missing a major opportunity to earn more ancillary revenue by pushing upgrade offers to fliers at the right time – on the day they fly, and in the right place – via their mobile phones.
Top day-of-travel ancillary purchases
The top ancillary fees business travelers we surveyed would pay for on the day-of-travel include:
Business traveler purchasing behavior
Business travelers are opportunistic purchasers – think about it, are you more likely to lay out even more cash when you’re booking tickets from the comfort of your home or office, or is the opportunity to buy access to business class lounges and fast-lane service more appealing during unforeseen delays when you’re stuck at the airport?
When fliers are more likely to pay ancillary fees
By pushing business-class upgrade opportunities to economy travelers a few hours before their flight, Austrian avoids the disappointment and possible resentment fliers will feel if their bids aren’t accepted. Although Austrian’s business-class amenities aren’t offered a-la-carte, the full-flat bed or guaranteed empty adjacent seat, priority boarding and fast-lane service hit right in the sweet spot of upgrades fliers are willing to pay the ancillary fee on their way to the airport or as they wait at the gate.
What’s your take – would you rather gamble in advance on the possibility of an upgrade at a price you think is fair, or buy a guaranteed one in real-time for a price the airline sets?
Increases in thunderstorms, travelers and ticket prices mark the beginning of the summer travel season, which is only a few weeks away. Airlines for America is predicting packed flights for the July to August stretch due to a record number of people traveling internationally and a brighter economic outlook. Add in unpredictable and sometimes dangerous summer storms, and you’ve got a recipe for stressful travel. While there’s not much we can do about the ticket prices, we have a few tips to help you have a better travel experience this summer.
Summer Travel Tip #1
Flying to Atlanta last week, it struck me that a familiar part of the airport experience was missing – the staff. There was a noticeable reduction in the number of agents on duty at ticket and gate counters, but their absence wasn’t causing chaos the way it would have in the past. The reason? Self-service is becoming status quo as travelers are increasingly comfortable using technology to navigate the airport. A passenger can use a kiosk to self check-in, then FIDS (flight information display systems), websites or mobile apps to check flight status which means fewer questions for gate agents to answer.
As it turns out, passengers aren’t only comfortable with self-service, they prefer it. A recent survey from SITA found that the most stressful part of a trip is fear of missing a flight, which is exactly what can happen when travelers have to wait in long lines at bottlenecks like check-in, bag drop and ID-check before going through security. Convenience and speed through processing checkpoints definitely help get passengers to the gate, but self-service options are valued at every point in the trip. The most welcome features among survey participants were flight status updates via mobile phone, self-boarding gates and kiosks for flight transfers.
These days it’s all too easy to find stories of complaints against airlines with sites like twitter giving travelers a platform to air their complaints in real-time while reaching thousands, even millions, of eyes. The main metric airline employees are evaluated on is their ability to keep to the schedule – the phrase “time is money” rings true in an industry saddled by sunk costs and already operating on razor thin margins. Often, this drives decisions based on the bottom line rather than keeping customers happy, but airlines that are in the business of moving people are often faced with challenges of a more human nature.
The crew on a recent United Airlines flight chose the passenger over the schedule in a great display of customer service. A man flying from San Francisco to see his dying mother in Houston had to catch a connecting flight in Lubbock, Texas, with only a 40 minute buffer. When the first leg of his trip was delayed, he became frantic: the Lubbock to Houston flight was the last of the day – if he missed it, he might never see his mother alive again. The United crew in San Francisco urgently radioed the crew in Lubbock, who decided to delay the connecting flight. The man (and his luggage) made it to Houston on time that night, where he rushed to his mother’s hospital bedside. She died the next morning.