Alienating Your Best Customers

Not only is it nearly impossible to book an airline seat using frequent-flier miles anymore, but now United is increasing its fee for making changes to award tickets from $75 to $100 and adding a $15 fee for any award ticket not booked through United.com. I remember, not long ago, when you could change award reservations indefinitely and didn’t have to pay extra to talk with someone. Those who have frequent-flier points to use are those who have earned points by either flying United or spending money with partners that in other ways benefit United. It’s these loyal customers that United and the others must cater to the most, not alienate with fees, inconvenience and frustration.

UPDATE: Per Clinton’s comment below, Northwest Airlines is also adding a $5 – $10 fee for tickets not purchased through the company’s web site. Northwest is comparing this move to discount airlines (such as Southwest and JetBlue) that offer lower prices online, but I say there is a difference between offering a lower price online and charging a fee for not ordering online.