Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Big airlines are troubled these days.
They claim they’re tortured by the fact that budget airlines are cheaper and all customers want is lower fares.
This week, United Airlines confessed that this wasn’t entirely true.
Sometimes, there’s a limit to the abuse passengers can tolerate.
During an investors event, United’s Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella said that the airline was going to expand its Basic Economy fares.
These I prefer to call Sub-Cattle Class, as they take away so much from customers that used to be simply normal.
Being able to use an overhead bin, for example. And being able to buy an upgrade or even choose a seat.
United’s Basic Economy is the nastiest of them all. If you buy one of these supposedly cheap tickets, you can’t even check in online.
All this prepares you for boarding last and inevitably getting the worst middle seat.
Last September United confessed that it had lost around $100 million on these fares.
You see, the airline thought there was nothing wrong with making Basic Economy as awful as possible.
It believed that customers would take one look and immediately give it more money to avoid this terrible, awful, no-good, offensive class.
The problem for United was that the Basic Economy offering is so nasty that many customers did everything possible to book with a budget airline, rather than play the game.
So now United is whispering that it’s going to make changes to its Sub-Cattle Class.
The first step announced by Nocella is that the airline will, oh, now allow Basic Economy passengers to reserve for a seat.
By paying extra, of course.
There’s even a chance of paying for an upgrade, too.
This is surely a significant acknowledgement that there are limits to what passengers are prepared to tolerate. Especially from one of the major airlines.
What this also means, however, is that United’s attempts to nickel-and-dime will only increase in intensity and complexity.
Customers will have to be doubly vigilant when they book and make sure that they know precisely what they’re buying, how much they’re buying it for and whether a better fare might be available elsewhere — or even on United.
It’s all a game.
One in which airlines are always the bankers.