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Entries during 2017-09

The Last to Board

Q. I always seem to end up in the last group called to board the plane. And I've actually seen plenty of people who board before their group is called or before their rows are called, and yet they are allowed to board whenever they approach the podium. Why do almost all airlines not actually enforce their boarding procedures? I'm okay boarding a little later but I don't like being edged even further back in the process because some people are lying and the people in charge don't call them on it! In the interest of fairness, what can I do? And why does this always happen?

A. I have seen airline personnel enforce these rules, but they don’t make passengers remain seated until their boarding group or row is called. So eager passengers crowd the boarding area, making it difficult for passengers who need to board. I suspect that employees just don’t want to make a scene and the airline doesn’t have the personnel to enforce common courtesy at the boarding area. And you’re right, more and more people have priority boarding, now that you can buy your way to the front of the line with various credit card perks and extra fees.

Above image via Shutterstock

Advance Seat Selection Trickery

Q. While booking two different flights on American many weeks in advance, I noticed that when I got to the phase of selecting seats that virtually all seats shown to me were the so-called “preferred” seats.

Is American purposely hiding or holding back normal economy seats in an attempt to force customers to buy higher priced but not necessarily better seats? I don't mind paying for cabin extra, but really, am I being baited and up-sold for a normal seat in row 12?

A. Yes, they are trying to persuade consumers to pay for the extra legroom seats. I advise people to buy the fare without choosing a seat and then recheck frequently, either by phone or online, to see if basic economy seats become available. If none become available, they’ll get one of the extra legroom seats for free or they’ll be assigned a seat in basic economy eventually. As frequent fliers with status get upgraded to extra legroom seats more basic economy seats will open up, usually starting at 72 hours before flight time. Bottom line: as long as you can buy the regular economy airfare you will get a seat, unless you’re bumped from the flight in which case you’ll get cash compensation for denied boarding.

Hurricane Price Gouging

Q. I read your observation in a recent article in the New York Times about customer complaints regarding possible price gouging in response to recent hurricane activity in Florida.

If your observations are true, that these in prices are just a reflection of computer program adjustments as standard airline practices, and not price gouging, then I and other consumers agree then there is even a bigger problem with how these fares are generated.

Don't you understand that these computers are programmed by humans to maximize profit for the cost of a seat based solely on when it was purchased?

A. A few days ago, I did some random searches on Kayak and Southwest and did not find any evidence of price gouging. For example, I saw Fort Lauderdale to New Orleans on Jetblue nonstop for $55 one-way and a fare to NYC last minute for $190 one-way, and a same day $380 nonstop from Miami to New York.

So I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary and others I talked to in the industry didn’t find atrociously high airfares either, although many flights were sold out.

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