Effective today, one of the world’s largest airlines is making a surprising change to its booking policy. According to a confirmation email received this morning:
Delta Air Lines will no longer charge a fee for customers who purchase their tickets over the phone through Reservation Sales or in person at airports and other ticket office locations.
Previously, Delta instituted a Direct Ticketing Charge of $25 per ticket when purchased over the phone through Reservation Sales and $35 per ticket when purchased at airports and other ticket office locations. Charges varied for some locations outside of the United States. Delta does not charge a fee for customers who purchase tickets on delta.com or through the Fly Delta app.
So, no more fees for Delta bookings made by phone or at a ticket counter.
That’s a shocker, especially given the fact that, of all the many nickel-and-diming fees the airlines have imposed recently, the phone-booking fee has been widely accepted and integrated into travel consumers’ behavior and expectations.
No doubt Delta will emphasize the obvious consumer-friendliness of the move. And it’s undeniably a welcome change, which is likely to spur similar moves among other airlines. So kudos to Delta.
But it’s also worth remembering that it’s no accident that Delta is among the most profitable of the U.S. airlines. (The company today reported its profit for the first quarter of 2016: $946 million.) And while the carrier will be foregoing the booking fees, it has certainly factored into its decision the additional revenue to be generated from the aggressive cross-selling and up-selling its reservations agents will no doubt be encouraged and trained to include in their transactions with callers.
When booking Delta flights by phone, customers should expect less “How can I help you?” and more “What can I sell you?”
Reader Reality Check
Good news, right?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.