When online customers attempt to purchase the least expensive tickets for a Delta Airlines flight, a pop-up warning appears on the screen, informing the buyers of all the perks they won’t get unless they upgrade.
While Delta claims the process simply ensures transparency, consumer advocacy group FlyersRights.org says customers are being shamed and pressured into purchasing more expensive tickets.
The message in question (above) appears on the screen when a customer attempts to purchase tickets in the Basic Economy category, which, thanks to Delta’s new five-tiers of service, has been compared to “Economy Minus,” and carries even fewer benefits than the previous bottom-of-the-barrel Economy class.
Through this message, customers are reminded that they will be the last to board and the last to access overhead compartments, they will not have seat assignments until after checking in, they cannot change, upgrade, or be refunded for their tickets, and they will be subjected to a whole host of other annoyances.
Basically, the pop-up shouts, “If you continue with this transaction, your flight is really, really going to suck; are you suuuuuure you don’t want to cough up the extra cash to travel better than livestock?”
At which point it’s presumably up to the consumers to decide whether or not the hassles that have just been detailed for them are enough to sway them into upgrading.
But is the problem actually with the message itself, or with the five-tier system?
William J. McGee, author of Attention All Passengers: the Airlines’ Dangerous Descent and How to Reclaim our Skies told Yahoo Travel:
“The airlines say they’re introducing new products to offer consumers more choice…What they’re really doing is responding to Wall Street investors who want them to cram more of us into tighter seats as they charge more and higher fees.”
Still, FlyersRights.org insists that the issue is the pop-up message itself. The group feels the warning is intended to interrupt customers while trying to make an inexpensive purchase and encourage them to upgrade, calling it the equivalent of “upselling” the same way that a car dealer cajoles a buyer into choosing a more expensive model than he or she intended on purchasing.
But whichever way you slice it, this is just more bad press for the increasingly-maligned airline industry. And yet, as president of FlyersRights.org Paul Hudson points out:
“If it works, other airlines will likely try to follow.”