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Airlines have change fees. Should we?

Somehow, I got to the Madrid airport a lot earlier than I expected to. “Just in time to take the earlier flight back to Newark,” said Ms. “You’re Lucky I Speak English” Continental Airlines employee.

Just in time, that is, if I was willing to pay the $50 change fee.

It wasn’t a tough choice.  Sit in the airport for 3 extra hours or pay $50 to get to my office 3 hours faster.  Since I consider my in-office hourly rate to be higher than $16.67/hour, I forked it over.

And Ms. Continental smiled so sweetly as she violently ran my credit card and racked up another $50 in sales for the day.  And for what?  For printing out a new ticket?  For the 2 minutes it took for her to switch my reservation?  The earlier flight wasn’t sold out, so moving me around wasn’t costing them anything.  In fact, since I was moving to an earlier flight, that gave them another seat to sell on a later flight, and gave them more time to sell it!  They got more cash and more profit potential!

Airlines have very strict no refund/no exchange policies, just like we do, but they’ve figured out how to use it to their advantage. (BTW, here’s a tip for you or your box office managers:  when customers do complain about not being able to get tickets refunded because their plans change, etc., my sales team reminds them that buying theater tickets is a lot like buying airline tickets, or cruise ship tickets, or any vacation ticket.  They tend to calm down a bit when they realize we’re not the only industry that doesn’t give cash back.)

So if airlines do it . . . should we?

If your cat had to be rushed to the VET because she ate your Annie action figure, and you’d rather see Shrek next week instead of ‘tomorrow’, would you pay $5/ticket to switch ’em?  I bet you would.

In fact . . . would you be more inclined to purchase tickets in advance to a show if you knew you could make a switch later on for a small fee?

I know I often buy airline tickets weeks in advance to lock in a deal, knowing that if my plans change, I’ll pay the fee and move the tickets as I need.
Would theater patrons do the same?

Of course the problem here is seat locations, and sold-out shows.  This isn’t a service everyone could offer, but it seems it could be designed in a way that could do two things:

  • Make the patron happy
  • Make the production more money

And shouldn’t those be the goals of every one of our initiatives?