First, a bold disclaimer: I accept responsibility for what I did and was entitled to nothing.
Even seasoned travel pros make mistakes and I sure made a big one on my recent 48-hour adventure. If you recall, I was on an Aeroplan ticket from Los Angeles to Istanbul via London, Cairo, and Beirut then a Ukraine International Airlines tickets from Istanbul to New York via Kiev. That only left the final segment from New York to LA.
Rather than transferring to Newark to fly on United, I booked a $117 one-way ticket on JetBlue. No MINT this time, but after being disconnected for so many hours on my trip (not one flight had wi-fi) I just intended to work.
Somehow I got my dates wrong, though, and booked the JetBlue flight one day later… Yes, I arrived at JetBlue’s Terminal 7 only to find my flight was not this evening but next evening.
What a fool.
Time to put on the charm, I thought. I waited in line at the customer service desk and when it was my turn, explained the problem and asked how much it would be move my ticket up to this evening.
“That will be $379, even if I wave the change fee for you.”
Darn. I asked if it was possible to standby if there were seats available.
“I wish. The flights are light this evening. I wish I could put you on one leaving in an hour that is half full. But I can’t.”
JetBlue certainly is smart not to incentivize passengers to deliberately book a cheaper fare on the wrong day and standby for free on a more expensive flight. But I do wish agents were empowered to be a bit more flexible.
By this point we were talking about a change to a flight departing within 24 hours of my booked flight and I would have gladly paid the $50 change fee to get a seat on a flight that was half full. That represented ancillary revenue for JetBlue with very little opportunity cost since I would never consider paying the $379.
JetBlue does allow free standby on the flight prior to the one you are booked on, assuming it departs same-day. JetBlue also offers same-day confirmed changes for $50 to any earlier (or later) flight on your booked day of travel. That is a very fair policy.
I opted to go past security and spend some time working in the Aspire lounge before attempting one more change. The 11:50p flight was also lightly booked, but a CS service agent again informed me that a change was impossible short of paying the full difference in price. No complaint from me. Just sad that the flight went out with 30 open seats.
When I make mistakes like this I react very stubbornly – perhaps to my own detriment. Rather than get a hotel room, I sat all night near a charging station in a darkened gate area, working. At around 4am I confirmed myself on the 5:45am flight to Los Angeles for $50 and was home by 9am that day.
JetBlue did nothing wrong and I was thankful that my mistake only cost me a half day and $50. My long “layover” at JFK turned out to be extremely productive.
But here’s another story: this morning I flew from Burbank to San Francisco on United. As I entered the airport I heard the following page–
“Will Mr. and Mrs. Jones please approach gate B3. We’d love to put you on an earlier flight to San Francisco if you wish.”
That’s proactive, though granted a small outstation is much different than a large hub.
I asked the gate agent about it when boarding and he said:
“Oh yeah, the sooner we can get them out, the better. You never know what is going to happen with weather or mechanics later on.”
And that is why my title is, “The Fine Line Between Common Sense and Revenue Management”. JetBlue owed me nothing, but why not get rid of me? What if they needed my seat the next day? What if the weather turned bad? (indeed, it did).
How many people are really going to show up at the airport a day early just to try to game the system to catch an alternate flight?
It’s a fine line indeed and while I can and do respect JetBlue’s rules, charging $379 to change to a flight departing within the hour that was only half full just does not seem the most logical business decision when at least some ancillary revenue was on the table.