Published on Monday, May 21, 2012

Delta under fire for 'unfair' fares

Delta Air Lines has been accused of charging higher fares to its frequent flyers than to regular customers.

The airline claimed a "computer glitch" meant its website displayed higher prices for users who had entered their frequent flyer number than for those who hadn’t.

It admitted the discrepancy had existed for some time.

The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) and Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA) said the incident demonstrates the need for regulating bodies to stamp out unfair policies.

"It would appear from reports that one of the benefits of belonging to Delta’s SkyMiles program is the privilege to pay more for your airfare," said Charlie Leocha, director of CTA. "When it comes to prices, it’s time for airlines to start telling the whole truth."

The fare difference was discovered by two business travellers who had been booking flights on side-by-side screens.

BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell said: "We must guard against unfair policies and practices that short-circuit the free market and deceive both business and leisure travellers by showing the traveller only those offerings an airline wants the passenger to see."

BTC and CTA have called for a review by the US Department of Transport of "apparently deceptive airline price-display practices not only for airfares, but also for the growing numbers of ancillary fees, especially baggage and seat-reservation fees".

Delta posted a response from Bob Kupbens, vice president, eCommerce:

"In late April we began testing a new search functionality as part of these enhancements. We phased the installation, to first offer the new search function to customers who weren’t logged in because we wanted to be particularly careful not to disrupt the booking experience for our best customers.

"As a result, over a period of about 19 days, logged-in customers were seeing different flight search results than customers who chose not to log in.

"If you’re someone who logged onto and bought a ticket between April 20 and May 9 and you have a question about the fare you paid, please feel free to contact us."


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