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Air transportation is a fare game

If a passenger misconnection leads to the cancellation of a trip, should the airline refund the total trip cost and not just the unused segment?  It happened to me recently and this is an actual quote from an email I received from an airline’s
customer service!

If a passenger misconnects and their need for their trip is negated
because of the misconnection, should the airline not refund the whole
trip cost and not just the unused segment?  It happened to me recently
and this is an actual quote from an email I received from an airline’s
customer service!

“While we have high service standards, basically our product is
transportation.  While some elements of a particular flight may be
unsatisfactory, we do not routinely provide compensation when
is provided…..I have asked our colleagues to review the possibility of
refunding the unused portion of your ticket to Providenciales.”

This is the reply from my airline when I filed a recent complaint
seeking a full refund for not getting me to Providenciales, on the Turks
and Caicos Islands, to moderate a panel at the World Travel Internet Conference. Ironically on the topic was the “Future of the Airline Industry”. 

My intended itinerary was Boston-Miami-Providenciales but upon arriving
Miami (early by the way), there was no gate for the arriving aircraft.
After the sprint across Miami airport, I missed my connection - the last
of the night. 


The airline took responsibility for the misconnection as the gate agent
kindly booked a hotel for me at Miami airport and re-booked me for the
next flight out which unfortunately, did arrive until after the
conference was over.  Frustrated, disappointed and angered, I had no
choice but to fly back to Boston having wasted an airline ticket, a
Sunday and hours of preparation time for the conference and three hours
of my return flight to ponder the future of the airline industry.

The usage of the phrases “our product is transportation” and “refunding
unused portion of your ticket” got me thinking.  You see, I bought a
from Boston to Providenciales not Boston to Miami and Miami to
Providenciales.  Airlines using advance yield management systems price
tickets based on O&D (original and destination).  Judging by airline’s
email to me, they may price by O&D but they operate by segments. 

If I buy a theatre ticket, I buy a complete show, an experience.  It is
not priced by the first and second acts independently.  I buy a ticket
for a show.  Similarly for an airline, I buy a ticket to my destination
regardless of which hub or code share partner operates the flight.
However, it would appear the airlines can separate my itinerary into two
segments and was willing to refund only the portion of the trip that was

Is this right - of course not.  I wanted to get to my destination and
was prevented by their operational inefficiency at their connecting hub.
So do airlines price their business as solely transportation or
delivering the passenger to their destination?  It would appear that
passengers are commodities, like coffee, detergent or chemicals - all
requiring just “transportation” and based on the airlines best effort to
deliver them to their destination. 

Is this the future of the airline industry?

By Declan Boland, Director, Global Communications Practice, Unisys Corporation