We’re seeing alerts from business travel professionals this week warning that the major airlines have quietly changed their pricing practices on multi-leg itineraries in a way that can cost you a lot more money.
For example, we received an email from Sherry Conley, vice president of operations at Boehm Travel Companies, with this report: “We had a traveler price three legs of a circle-trip on Delta.com — Baltimore to Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids to Atlanta, Atlanta back to Baltimore. The combination of the three one-way fares was less than $600 in Main Cabin. When priced as one trip, the price is $1,558.20. Incredible! This is just one example – I am sure every agency has many, and it is not just Delta. American and United have also updated their fare rules. I’m sure neither carrier had any idea the others were doing this…right!”
The Global Business Travel Association, a trade organization of company travel managers, also sounded an alarm, noting in a statement this week that “United, Delta and American all changed fare structures on multi-city trips without any advance communication to corporate travel managers. This represents a major faring change requiring transparency throughout the buyer community.”
The organization said it sent out an alert to its members and also contacted members of Congress. “While recent airline statements indicate that these changes were the result of unintended consequences of new combinable fare restrictions, we will now survey our members to verify that the issue has been resolved to their satisfaction,” GBTA said.
The Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy group for corporate travel, sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for an investigation. BTC suggested in the letter that American, Delta and United “may have recently coordinated” their pricing practices on multi-leg trips, potentially “driving up the price of an airline ticket on unsuspecting consumers by as much as a factor of seven.”
BTC cited an example of a New York-Los Angeles-Albuquerque-Montreal-New York routing that showed a coach fare of $2,745; the total for booking individual one-way segments instead came to $898, BTC said.
While airlines often match each other’s fares, this practice is different, BTC alleged: “This policy is complex and far-reaching, with major implications including for travel distribution channel competition. This is not a match-and-go decision, but one that would have received a considerable thought, analysis and discussion over time.”
Readers: Have you been caught up in this new pricing practice…or racket? Post comments below.
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights