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Airlines vs. passengers.

Byline: The Register-Guard

In what appears to be a continuing campaign to tick off its customers, the airline industry has found a new way to block passengers looking for ways to save money on airfares.

Ever since the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, the carriers have been quick to take advantage of their new freedoms, including cutting services to passengers and charging fees for everything from snacks to baggage.

But one of the practices that has most annoyed some customers, including frequent-flying business travelers, is stamping out creative attempts by passengers to save money.

Tactics included cracking down on "hidden city" ticketing. A passenger who needed to fly from Los Angeles to Chicago, for example, would instead buy a cheaper ticket from Los Angeles to New York, with a stop in Chicago, and get off the plane in Chicago. Airlines retaliated by canceling reservations if passengers didn't use the second leg of a ticket, forcing them to buy new return tickets at an expensive last- minute rate.

Similarly, passengers who wanted to avoid having to extend their stay through a weekend to get a cheaper ticket, as opposed to leaving home on Monday and returning on Friday, learned they could buy two tickets, one a Monday departure and Monday return, one a Friday departure and Friday return. The passenger saved money by using the Monday portion of the first ticket to get to their destination and the Friday portion of the second to come home and throwing away the rest. When airlines caught on to that, they said they would charge any travel agent who booked such flights for the price difference and take away the offending passenger's frequent flier miles.

The latest move by airlines to crack down on passengers involves people who figured out they could save money traveling from, say, Miami to Denver by buying a separate ticket for each leg of the flight instead of one round-trip ticket. The three largest airlines - American, Delta and United - now won't allow passengers to buy separate tickets for each leg of a trip unless they buy fully refundable tickets, which cost more.

The Business Travel Coalition is accusing the airlines of illegal collusion and has asked the Department of Justice to add this to an ongoing investigation of the airlines.

It's hard to imagine another industry as zealous in attempting to control its customers as the airlines. This latest salvo only fuels a growing revolt by passengers.

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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 9, 2016
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