Delta Air Lines has dropped one of its most onerous fees: the $25 it collects to allow you to make a booking by telephone. Now, people who do not book using the Web—because they don't have a computer, for example, or can't use one—will not be penalized with higher prices.
Along with that surcharge, it dropped the $35 to make a booking in person at a Delta counter, something relatively few people did anyway.
The airline used the announcement to lavishly praise itself, boasting of its magnanimity in a prepared statement. “By listening, caring and connecting with our customers, we have their backs every time they fly with us," a Delta vice president bragged.
Charging people money simply to initiate a transaction is a Soviet-style practice, to be sure, but in an airline environment as uncompetitive as America's it has, astonishingly, been possible because passengers simply don't have an alternative.
Why the airline would unilaterally cease this shameful practice is a mystery—unless it is finally realizing how much people despise doing business with it. If that's the reason, it's like covering a cannonball wound with a Band-Aid.
The fee's job has also been accomplished: Passengers were abused by Delta's fees to the point where they now simply book online as basic practice. Through profitable penalties, Delta forced behavior that benefited it and could trim its once-large customer service staff to a minimum. With all those jobs now gone and that money saved, it's safe to remove the fee and look like a good guy. Naturally, anyone who has paid the telephone booking surcharge in the past will not receive a refund.
Delta earned $1 billion just in the last quarter, beating analysts' expectations.
Its other monopoly-style competitors, American and United, have not yet followed suit. Ryanair never will.