American Airlines Blames Customers Finding Out the Truth For Having to Make Fares More Attractive

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Over the last few weeks, many airlines have been crowing about how well they’re doing.

And then there’s American Airlines.

It suddenly encountered difficulties, despite being huge and enjoying an extended network in a buoyant economy.

One of the areas in which it suffered is its Sub-Cattle Class.

Often known as Basic Economy, these are the (allegedly) cheapest tickets that don’t let you change your seat, force you to board last, give you the worst seat at the last minute and, in American’s case, don’t let you use the overhead bins.

I mentioned earlier this week that American had decided to change the carry-on requirements, as its Basic Economy offering wasn’t doing so well and was even angering its own employees.

Gate Agents and Flight Attendants were forced into being the Bag Police, which is tiresome in the extreme.

On the airline’s earnings call last week, American CEO Doug Parker offered another factor that contributed to the airline’s poor Basic Economy performance.

“There are now filters on things like Google search that ask you if you want to bring a carry-on, and if you say yes, the American flights don’t show up nearly as high as they did before because it adds $20 to our fare,” he said.

The truth can be a pesky beast. It can reveal that your Basic Economy fare only exists to make passengers despise it so much that they’re prepared to pay more for the Economy Class that used to cost less.

Parker insisted there was “nothing wrong” with passengers learning the truth. 

“When you get yourself in a position in this business where price-sensitive customers find themselves with lower fares on truly competitive airlines like that, we have to take that into consideration,” he said.

Many passengers may chuckle at the notion that American might not be a truly competitive airline.

There’s another aspect to all this, however.

The major airlines — American included — have, for quite some time now, been pressuring the government to stop Google and comparison sites like Kayak from revealing the true cost of flights.

Or, rather, they want to force them to reveal the same information as the airlines do — such as flight delays — without actually having access to that information.

The big airlines want customers to go to the airline’s own site, where they can be fooled into thinking that fares are very low, until they see — just before pressing the Buy button — just how much all the extras cost.

So when Parker says there’s nothing wrong with customers accessing Google, I fear he may mean that there’s everything annoying about it.