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Pushing against the tide of more and higher fees for airline tickets, Delta has removed the Direct Ticketing Charge of $25 and $35 to book via phone and in person.
“Eliminating the Direct Ticketing Charge is the latest example of the company’s commitment to assisting customers and responding to their feedback before, during and after their travel with Delta.”
It is easy to respond with cynicism when a corporation the size of Delta suddenly cuts fees and issues a press release declaring:
“we have their (customers) backs every time they fly with us.”
For any Delta customer who has had to pay $25 or $35 for the right to speak to a human being when booking a flight over the past decade, they may not feel that Delta has “had their backs.”
Delta's reasons for the change:
“It is much simpler for our customers to not have to worry if they will pay a fee for ticketing with Delta.”
“This – and every decision we make – is based on engaging with our customers…”
However, following the recent integration of Delta's Twitter accounts @DeltaAssist into @Delta, this move is a clear indication that Delta is looking at ways to improve the customer experience at a corporate level, and is making decisions that have real benefits for Delta Airlines customers.
So why this particular charge?
Not being party to Delta's revenue decisions we can only speculate, but a few ideas come to mind.
Of all airline fee's, this one is the worst perceived by flyers. The only customers it penalizes are those who are uncomfortable booking online, and those that the online system is failing, for whatever reason. It instantly puts customers on the back foot because it is unfair and perceived as a blatant money grab for a necessary service.
Scrapping the fee also scores Delta some brownie points in flyers eyes as being the first of the big three to eliminate the charge. If American and United cut those same fees now, it will be looked at as a reaction to Delta's move as opposed to cutting expenses to benefit the customer.
Cutting the Direct Ticketing Charge is also going to be a part of Delta's response to flight comparison websites like Kayak and SkyScanner.
There is a reason people are flocking to these sites in increasing numbers; they offer a much better user experience for the customer and will often show you better fares than you can find on the airline's website. This is costing the big airlines a huge amount of money in commissions and the lost revenue of upselling customers with upgrades.
If Delta can improve the customer experience by dropping this charge, the change will increase revenue in the long run by bringing in more direct bookings.
There is likely a broad range of reasons to reduce the Direct Ticketing Charge, but I see these as the big ones. Being seen as first to move on removing a fee, particularly one is so poorly perceived, is great marketing, has direct benefits for customers, and, given the volume of people booking in person, is not expected to notably affect revenue.
Those are wins for everyone involved.
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