Airlines create innovative guarantees to ease passengers’ booking worries

Airlines have come up with innovative ‘guarantees’ to let consumers book with more confidence. The schemes are intended to take away anxiety from consumers, caused by for example fears of job loss or weather conditions at their destination. Other airlines aim to drum up sales during the traditional slow fall travel season or are using guarantees as a new source of ancillary revenues. For example, JetBlue and Flybe last year offered a refund if a customer would lose his or her job after booking a flight. Flybe also offered a ‘volcanic ash insurance’ to let customers more peace of mind when booking during the Iceland volcano disruption in the spring of 2010. Lufthansa in July 2009 offered a ‘Sunshine Guarantee’, offering passengers who booked early EUR20 (up to a maximum of EUR200) for every day of at least 5mm of rainfall.

SmartWings ‘Weather Guarantee’
To increase advance bookings and generate additional revenues, Czech budget carrier SmartWings offers passengers a ‘weather protection insurance’ for EUR15 in order to receive EUR30 per day (with a maximum of 15 days) when more than 10mm of rain falls at their destination. The insurance has to be purchased 20 days before the actual travel date. The airline is providing the package, dubbed ‘MeteoBonus’, in partnership with ancillary revenue developer Airsavings, which says the product is based on similar services used in the agricultural industry to hedge against poor weather.

airBaltic ‘Delayed Arrival Warranty’
airBaltic from Latvia lets passengers bet against a late arrival of their flight. For a non-refundable fee of EUR17 per passenger per one-way journey, the airline’s ‘Delayed Arrival Warranty’ option gives passengers a guaranteed double refund of their ticket price (including fare and fuel surcharge) if the airline delivers them to their final destination more than 1 hour later than promised on their ticket. The refund is in the form of a  gift voucher which can be used to purchase future flights with airBaltic. Valid reasons for receiving a refund exclude bad weather conditions at departure and/or arrival airport, strikes, terrorism, and war. On a similar note, Polish low-cost carrier Wizzair offers a, less generous, warranty delay option, and refunds EUR100 to passengers who bought a warranty for EUR10 in case of a two-hour delay.

Alaska Airlines ‘Baggage Service Guarantee’
Almost all airlines in the U.S. charge passengers for checked in luggage, including Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary Horizon Air. Under the motto “If you pay more for your luggage, then the service also has to be better”, both airlines offer a ‘baggage service guarantee’. Passengers whose luggage does not reach the baggage carousel 20 minutes or less from the time their airplane has parked at the gate will receive either USD20 off a future flight or 2,000 frequent-flyer miles.

‘Try OpenSkies, Love Everything or Pay Nothing’
British Airways subsidiary OpenSkies is so confident of its all-business-class service from Paris Orly to both Newark and Washington Dulles that between September 8 and November 30, 2010 it offers a ‘Love Everything or Pay Nothing’ money-back guarantee. The promotion is all about getting new customers to try the airline and results from a recent survey by the airline which found that 96.85 percent of the 4,250 passengers polled would recommend OpenSkies. As for the fine print, the offer is good only on tickets purchased by customers originating in the U.S. and the journey has to be completed by November 30. To file a claim, travelers have to personally write a letter to OpenSkies within 30 days of travel with details or their trip, how they bought the ticket and what went wrong.

Update 15 December 2010. According to Dale Moss, Managing Director of Open Skies, just 24 passengers asked for their money back during the guarantee’s September-to-November run. The airline claims it sold “tens of thousands” of tickets during the guarantee’s 90-day life. According to Moss, a third of the refunds involved “tactical flight delays,” and he attributed another group of refunds to “people being people.” The final category were OpenSkies customers unhappy with the airline’s predeparture lounges in Newark and Orly. In Newark, OpenSkies uses a third-party lounge that is located ‘landside’ and Moss says its lounge at Orly Airport is “not perfect” as well. Currently, British Airways is building an ‘airside’ lounge at Newark that will be available for OpenSkies customers as well, and OpenSkies is also negotiating with Paris airport authorities for improvements of its lounge.

Related articles:
Flybe launches ‘volcanic ash insurance’ to let travelers book with more confidence
Alaska Air ups checked baggage service guarantee to 20 minutes

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