The AirTran Bait and Switch

I’ve been flying all over the place, and, as usual,  an airline showed me some unethical maneuvering that I had never encountered before. They must stay up late thinking up this stuff.

My return flight on AirTran was booked, but I had no seat assignment. Using one of the AirTran self-serve kiosks at the Dallas airport, I was asked to choose my seat. However, all of the available seats were “Business Class,” which, the screen said, would cost me another $65 on top of my fare. Well, if I had wanted Business Class, I would have reserved and charged for Business Class seats in the first place. The automatic system gave me no options, so I waited in line a second time to talk with a living, breathing ticket agent.

I said I wanted a seat assignment for the class of seat I had paid for—coach. She asked me if I wanted to upgrade to Business Class. Now the price was magically only $49. I said no. I had arrived in plenty of time, and I had a contract for a seat, thank you. Give me one. She told me she couldn’t: now I had to go to the gate, stand in line yet again, and see if they had managed to talk someone like me into paying the extra money to give up his or her seat for Business Class, and then I would get that seat.

Fuming at this aggravating process, I did as I was told. I got up to the front of the line, and was immediately assigned one of the Business Class seats, at no extra charge—because that was all they had left. They had no other choice, you see. But first, they had to try to get me to pay $65 , then $49, for seats they were obligated to give me anyway, and knew it.

The Business Class seats were certainly an upgrade. They were larger, with more leg room; I also got a real snack instead of a bag of pretzels that would fit in your wallet, and a can of soda rather than just a plastic cup. Worth $65? Or even $49? No way. The main thing is, however, that AirTran’s system is designed to pull a bait and switch, and make think I had to pay extra money when I didn’t. Clever. If I had given in and purchased the upgrade, I never would have known that the seat was mine, whether I paid extra or not.

This will be enough to keep me off AirTran in the future. Who knows what other tricks they have up their sleeve?

One thought on “The AirTran Bait and Switch

  1. AirTran *was* ValuJet, and their unethical AND illegal, dangerous behavior in the 90s resulted in the Everglade crash that killed a college friend of mine. I have never flown with them, and frankly, I’m not surprised and suspect this bait-&-switch is the tip of the iceberg. I’m very, very hopeful that Southwest’s corporate culture completely swamps it when the merger is complete. I hope.

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