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Upselling at the Airport

Written by Nickel - 14 Comments

I’m currently on the road at the tail end of a work-related trip. I arrived at the airport somewhat early this morning and, while checking in at the self-service kiosk, I was greeted by a message offering to bump me up to an earlier flight. Curious, I punched the button for more information. Sure enough, they could get me on a non-stop flight just like the one that I had booked, except I’d depart (and thus arrive) one hour earlier.

The price for this change? Fifty dollars. As tempting as it is to get out of here an hour earlier, I decided against the “upgrade.”

It’s funny… There was a time when you could go to the check-in desk and get moved up to earlier flights for free if seats were available. It makes perfect sense for airlines to do this, as it lets them push unsold seats onto later flights, thereby increasing (albeit only slightly) the likelihood that they’ll be able to sell the seats to other travellers. Apparently upselling passengers to earlier flights is a more profitable endeavor.

Published on October 17th, 2007 - 14 Comments
Filed under: Travel

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14 Responses to “Upselling at the Airport”

  1. 1
    Blaine Moore Says:

    This past August, I was able to get bumped to an earlier flight with Jet Blue. I left an hour or two early, while everybody else on the flight that I got on was leaving two hours late. That was the same day that NYC had issues with tornadoes.

    So, not all airlines are charging yet. If you had gone to the desk and asked, it is possible you could have gotten on for free anyway?

  2. 2
    Anne Says:

    I believe you can still get on the standby list for free. The $50 charge is for a guaranteed seat on the earlier flight. It might be worth it depending on your plans and how crowded the airport seems.

  3. 3
    Mrs. Micah Says:

    Blaine has a point. I was thinking the same–perhaps if you actually ask them at the service checkout they might let you do it. However, they want you to have the option of doing it yourself….and to pay for that option. But since it’s probably good for their business I expect they’d do it if you asked in person. It’s just MORE profitable to do it the other way. ;-)

  4. 4
    Jason Says:

    I fly continental a lot and they do the same 25-50 dollar fee. If instead you go up to the departure gate and ask to be put on standby, it’s completely free. I’ve gained 2-3 hours on a half dozen trips using this strategy.

    In fact, for one particular itinerary, I do it every time in case I get caught in traffic. Too much traffic and I catch the 8:30am flight. Clear sailing and I bump up to the 6:50am.

  5. 5
    MoneyNing Says:

    I think you can only do it at the departure gate and not every airline will allow that.

    It is definitely more profitable to try to charge people to move because there aren’t that many people that will buy a ticket only if they can be on a particular flight if they are running late.

  6. 6
    nickel Says:

    Good point about trying to get on standby at the gate. You may be right that the fee is just for getting a guaranteed spot.

  7. 7
    SteveK Says:

    United sort of does this with their Economy Plus upgrade, which will put you in seats that have a few extra inches of extra legroom. Their self-check in will try to sell you this upgrade if available, and is usually $30-$50.

    I hate to have to pay extra for these seats, but being 6′5″ makes it worth it to me. :-/ I miss the days where I could get there early and get exit seat rows for no cost.

  8. 8
    Shadox Says:

    I fly United typically, and getting an earlier flight the same day is allowed without charge, provided you are willing to stand-by (which since you are already in the airport should be pretty simple).

  9. 9
    mike Says:

    There’s no luck with Delta. They began a charge fee called “same day confimed” and done away with any thought of standby, reguardless of who you ask. The fee is $50. I even asked at the gate with no nudge.

  10. 10
    nickel Says:

    Interesting. I was flying Delta, so I guess it wouldn’t have helped to ask at the gate.

  11. 11
    John Says:

    I had similar experience as Mike. Delta does charge $50 but I paid anyway since we would save 5 hrs.

  12. 12
    Independent George Says:

    I fly standby all the time on American & United; since I try to build an extra 90 minutes of ’security’ time into my travel plans, I can usually take an earlier flight when things go smoothly. Paying extra for the guarantee does have its place, though; it can be a lifesaver when flights are delayed, and you want to fly out on your original departure time.

    I thought about doing this last week when O’Hare got backed up due to weather. It was a business trip, though, and I didn’t want to bill the company an extra $90 for the seat assignment just to save an extra hour; as it turned out, though, 1 hour quickly (or slowly, really) turned into 5, and I came very close to billing the company an extra $200 for an unexpected hotel stay.

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