Dynamic Pricing of Award Tickets: Can it Bite the Airlines as Well as Benefit Them?
C ould the dynamic pricing of award tickets potentially cause negative consequences for the airlines as well as benefit them?
A recent announcement from Delta Air Lines heralded the era of dynamic pricing pertaining to the redemption of SkyMiles for reward travel…
We know your miles are important, so we want to provide the most notice possible regarding Award price changes. For travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed will change based on destination, demand and other considerations. But most Award prices will remain unchanged. To see the best availability and deals, search at least 21 days prior to departure and use our Award Calendar by selecting “flexible days” when searching for a flight.
Miles needed to upgrade will increase, and to provide greater access to these upgrades, we’ve expanded the eligible types of fares.
Can you even, in your wildest dreams, think about spending over 1/2 MILLION SkyMiles for a one-way ticket? What about 1 MILLION+ miles for a round trip? This is what not having award charts and Delta SkyMiles2015 has given us. There literally is no limit on just what an award ticket will cost you on any given day when you go to spend your SkyMiles.
He may very well be right. Without an award chart to which one can refer, it will be increasingly difficult to judge exactly what is a good benchmark of the redemption of SkyMiles for award travel — especially as members of the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program are eventually weaned off of the mentality pertaining to fixed award charts after being conditioned to them for decades.
Moreover, a current sale from Delta Air Lines prices the redemption for select awards to be as low as 5,000 SkyMiles for travel one way. This sale is still active through Thursday, August 6, 2015.
With such a wide variation of the pricing of award travel with the redemption of SkyMiles — and no definitive reference to which to refer — what happens when there is a mistake fare on award travel?
Suppose you are searching for award travel between New York and Paris; and you found an award which costs only 15,000 SkyMiles each way for economy class travel. You book that award, thinking that it is a great deal and that there must be a sale.
What would you do if a representative from Delta Air Lines claims to you that it is an error and will not honor it?
Airlines long been engaged in dynamic pricing to the point where jokes regarding their absurdity have become classics — such as the one which is approximately 20 years old and pertains to what if airlines sold paint, as one of many examples…
…and airlines have not abated on keeping the consumer puzzled as to what airfare is valid and when. While there may be some obvious examples, how can consumers tell the difference between incorrect pricing and mistake fares — and differentiate those from airfares which were correctly published?
Now that the dynamic pricing model has officially been extended to pervade award travel as well — as Delta Air Lines no longer has award charts available to members of its SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program — customers are left to “roll the dice” and take a chance as to how many SkyMiles need to be redeemed for a certain award; and again with myriad factors to determine the final price.
With dynamic pricing comes uncertainty by the consumer; and with that uncertainty comes the questioning of the validity of an airfare. Is it really fair for a consumer to be burdened with proving that an airfare is indeed a sale upon which they unknowingly stumbled; or that the airfare is an actual mistake? I do not think so, because if an airline cannot ensure that the quality of information it distributes is as accurate as possible, why should the consumer bear the inconvenience or responsibility of the mistake?
Although airlines have been given more breathing room by an official statement issued from the Department of Justice of the United States pertaining to reneging on mistake airfares, where is the threshold as to what constitutes a mistake fare? Equally important is this question: does any protection to the airline pertaining to mistake fares also apply to mistakes in the redemption of frequent flier loyalty program miles? If so, is this an example of airlines “having their cake and eating it, too”?
What are your thoughts?