Sometimes I see articles complaining about airlines charging fees, and I just don’t understand where they are coming from – take in point an article in the New York Times earlier this week. If you buy a ticket that can’t be changed freely, then how can you complain when you are charged for subsequently changing your flight dates. The best part about that NYT article was the excellent cartoon that I have reproduced here. Along a similar line, so many people were up in arms over United kicking people off a flight based on getting rid of those who paid the least for their ticket. What is wrong with treating your higher value customers better? There is always the risk that a top tier frequent flier is traveling on a cheap ticket today, and you wouldn’t want to treat him poorly. Fortunately there are much more sophisticated models of passenger customer value that will avoid this problem, so the general point is still valid. You get what you pay for. 

A much more important issue in my mind is how do airlines ensure that passengers paying for unbundled services actually get what they have paid for – this is the link between sale and fulfillment. For example, US Airways not delivering a paid for Choice Seat, or Amercian Airline being sued over a lost bag that had been pre-paid. I’m hosting a panel on this topic in October, so I’m sure it will be mentioned again here in the coming weeks as I do more preparation for that panel.

Maximizing ancillary revenue clearly requires a good understanding of applying data to improve personalization – this was clearly proved in the Air Pacific case study, as well as on numerous other occasions. I have deliberately avoided comment on the Google takeover of ITA, but I will say that this one move alone should see me getting full marks on on of the 2010 predictions of Data will transform travel. I don’t think anyone would disagree that this transaction is potentially industry transforming. But rather than me giving myself full marks, read this interesting article for a similar yet independent view – the title of the story says it all: The airlines are sitting on a mountain of under-utilised data gold.

And after seeing a link to Travel Weekly from the T2 Impact blog, how is this for an interesting quote from a Google rep? Can’t say I fully agree with the criticism of airline websites in the following context.

If you type in flights from Sydney to London what you get is not brilliant. And when you click on a link and go into an OTA website or an airline website, the experience there isn’t great either.

Not sure how I ended up moving from ancillary revenue to Google, but that should be enough for one day.