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Selling unconfirmed tickets

Old 20th Feb 2021, 07:44
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Selling unconfirmed tickets

In the UK and EU, is it possible in any way for an airline to sell "tickets" for unconfirmed/standby seats (making this very clear to the purchaser) for a nonzero cost (but cheaper than a normal ticket) that may be refunded if no seats are available on a flight and is *not* liable to EU261 ? Pax would be told maybe 24 hours before departure if it converted to a real seat or a refund/credit voucher

I imagine the answer is a definite NO, but wondered what happens if the purchaser of an "unconfirmed ticket" signs something digitally to say they acknowledge the variation in terms. Can statute allow this change in contract without imposing the usual rights and duties ?

To those who point to how certain airlines abused the system pre 2004 that led to EU261, I'm thinking instead of an informed consent process whereby pax confirm they understand what standby means

Passenger would get cheaper transport than normal, while airline gets more freedom to fill the plane for revenue. Effectively, EU261 would be unbundled from the ticket to become a potential opt-out in return for money and looser commercial regulation

I realise such a solution might require a lot of legal creativity... so maybe the "tickets" might be sold by a company in an offshore jurisdiction which is not formally owned by the AOC licenced airline but which "advertises" on the airline website and pays "consultancy fees" to the airline

Last edited by davidjohnson6; 20th Feb 2021 at 09:13.
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 09:37
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You’re basically describing staff travel (ID90). On your own airline or whatever airline your airline has agreements with. You buy a fully flexible fully refundable lowest of the low priority tickets. If there’s a spare seat you get on. If there isn’t you don’t. You know the rules. But at the same time if you don’t turn up you get your money back.

I’ve never ever heard of it available for non staff though. (nominees of airline employee excepted again dependant on airline and agreement rules). It is an extremely valuable (usually) non contractual benefit.

So yes it must be “legal” (as usually non airline employees can benefit from it). But I can’t see any airline going for it.
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 10:06
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Pax would be told maybe 24 hours before departure if it converted to a real seat or a refund/credit voucher
How would this be diferent to walking up a nd buying a ticket on the day? You've still been given a specific date/time. They would have a reservation - "reservation" means the fact that the passenger has a ticket, or other proof, which indicates that the reservation has been accepted and registered by the air carrier or tour operator;

I realise such a solution might require a lot of legal creativity... so maybe the "tickets" might be sold by a company in an offshore jurisdiction which is not formally owned by the AOC licenced airline but which "advertises" on the airline website and pays "consultancy fees" to the airline
Would still be the operator who is responsible - "operating air carrier" means an air carrier that performs or intends to perform a flight under a contract with a passenger or on behalf of another person, legal or natural, having a contract with that passenger;
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 10:57
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This used to happen didn't it? I remember arriving on a long distance flight at Heathrow when I didn't want to risk missing the last flight of the day up to Leeds if it was late. As it turned out, we arrived on time. I went to the British Midland ticket desk in terminal one and they sold me a standby ticket. They told me there were a few empty seats and I did make it on to the plane.
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 11:24
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Pretty much no chance.

1st question is "What is in it for an airline" and answer is sweet bugger all.

The claim culture would have someone buying these and then going to court.

The claim would be that the airline did not honour their tickets so the lovely holiday to Disneyworld, with great Aunt Jemima, in a wheelchair, plus 4 kids including a nursing baby, was ruined because the airline refused to fly the 7 of them plus 150kgs of luggage for the £1000 they paid for their unconfirmed standby tickets. The claimants will state that the terms and conditions were completely unclear, they didn't read them and would go to court on basis of no win no fee.

Headline will be "Airline abandoned family of 7 including disabled woman and kids at airport" and all the media would be offering to pay for stories.

In Airlines case, why bother as there is no positive return.
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 11:46
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Isn't the question simply can an airline avoid its legal obligations by getting a customer to sign away their rights? The stuff about stand by etc isn't relevant.
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 12:18
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There is that as well, Airline coerced me into signomg away legal rights.

Ultimately is there a big enough return for the airline, for BA etc >£10 million a year for it to be worth the effort, hassle, management time and legal experts. I doubt if return justifies the effort so why bother.
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 13:36
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With the low cost airlines and the internet I don’t think there is much in it for customers or airlines? Offering this kind of “standby” ticket disrupts airline yield management for no return.
Some airlines do offer standby on earlier flights, typically in the US, or free same day changes on their economy+ fares such as BA. Is there an appetite for either party to go further?
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 13:41
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DJ6's point is around finding a way to reduce airlines exposure to EU261 - I don't think there is, there will always be a 'contract' between the operater and the pax to 'perform a flight'
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 13:46
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I remember BA offering this service (way back when) for a while on LHRJFK. You bought a ticket and then had to call within 24 hours of departure to see if that could be made firm.
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 13:56
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brian_dromey

I think this is the key message here, the suggested approach was replaced by yield management approach to selling tickets (staff ID90 tickets excluded), however the current challenge is that the yield management methods are not working in the current demand environment. Airlines are looking at creative ways to raise revenue. This covid storm will most likely be gone by thr end of the year when yield mgt will start working as intended again...
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 14:23
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Problem I can see with converting to " a real seat" at STD -24 hours the airline has lost the ability to sell that seat closer to STD to somebody willing to pay more...so we're back to the revenue management angle again.

FWIW most staff standby tickets are never converted into real seats until you're sat on the aircraft and the doors are closed..
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 14:27
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I would argue that EU261 disrupts what should be the normal yield management process. An airline will have a good idea of noshows... but the possibility of a claim makes airlines err on the side of caution and thus restrain overbooking so as to expect a few seats spare when leaving the gate

A non-EU261 standby pax would have to pay at the time of booking, NOT the day of travel.... the decision optionality accrues to the airline, not passenger. This means an airline could sell perhaps 10 more seats on a B738 (dependent on route) to standby pax - so push load factor from a pre-Covid *system-wide average* of 96% to 99%. Two months before departure, there is a significant level of uncertainty about ticket sales.... at T-24h it should be much easier to predict how many last minute ticket sales (including weather or strike related disruption) versus potential standby-to-confirmed conversion seats.

Additionally, standby tickets could be released gradually (max 2 pax per day) during the 9 months prior to departure - makes it less accessible for large groups who can't be split up, prohibit sales to under-18s and would reduce tariff abuse. Thus it should be very much a "top up" part of the ticket sales process

Last edited by davidjohnson6; 20th Feb 2021 at 14:51.
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 15:34
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It used to work OK - IIRC one of the reasons it disappeared was that Security wanted to know who was flying where and when ahead of time
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 15:49
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davidjohnson6

I don’t understand the problem you are trying to solve here? Allow airlines to sell more tickets, allow passengers to buy cheaper tickets and/or allow airlines to get around EU261? Is the idea to give more flexibility to the customer or the airline?
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 20:52
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The aim is to make the overall system more flexible (and more commercial for airlines) while still keeping the same level of protection to those passengers who want protection, and not significantly increase costs for airline or passenger

EU261 was necessary to deal with abuse by airlines (particularly by one well known LCC) but the rules it introduced created rigid inefficiencies in the system... the question is how to avoid those inefficiencies while still keeping the structural confidence-creating benefits of EU261
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 21:02
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But is the solution you are suggesting legal under 261/2004?
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Old 20th Feb 2021, 22:23
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If it were possible - someone would have been doing it for years. Carriers guard their terrirtory with blood hounds. After Covid, I don't see a change in the rules happening.
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Old 21st Feb 2021, 09:48
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Originally Posted by davidjohnson6 View Post
The aim is to make the overall system more flexible (and more commercial for airlines) while still keeping the same level of protection to those passengers who want protection, and not significantly increase costs for airline or passenger
I think the idea falls down because airlines charge a premium for flexibility. EU261 compensation is only payable with less than 2 weeks notice, so you’re suggesting masking the ticket “stand-by”, or “unconfirmed” inside the 14 day window? So airlines could publish a theoretical schedule, cancel the flight close to departure and not be liable?
It would be interesting to know how many flexible tickets were actually changed, pre-COVID. As there already seems very straightforward ways for passengers to buy cheap, inflexible or less cheap flexible fares.
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Old 21st Feb 2021, 10:19
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Cheaper standby tickets (the old definition, not the one used in the US nowadays) disappeared because regular travellers got fairly savvy about which flights were not normally full, and bought standby instead, actually leading to a revenue decrease (if you do this at university, as some of us have done, this is known as "revenue dilution").

Certainly in the UK, you cannot override statutory law (eg EU261) by making any contractual statement. The law is the law. End of.
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