It seems so long ago that some may not even remember when, in order to get the best price for airline travel, you needed to buy a ticket that included a Saturday night stay.
In this way the airlines could continue to fleece the goose that laid the golden egg, the corporate customer who seemed not to mind paying full fare. This was fine for a long time, but as corporate belts tightened, companies started insisting that their high flying employees stay over the weekend at their destinations. The cost of accomodation and food was still bringing significant savings to the bottom line.
Travellers with families hated these policies and looked for ways around the rules. With the help of willing and clever service-oriented agencies the idea of back-to-back tickets emerged.
In those days major carriers did not sell one-way tickets. Most fares were for return flights, so business travellers going to the same destination frequently just changed originating destinations in their ticketing alternately. By doing so from an airline perspective it seemed like they were always staying over the weekend, even though they were simply using a pair of tickets with staggered dates, thus enabling them to be home weekends and still procure their head offices the savings they insisted on.
Now once again the majority of U.S. airlines, like American, Continental, Delta, and UAL (Air Canada’s most frequent code share partner) have re-institued the Saturday night stay. While at first blush it would seem that our own Air Canada will be quick to jump on the money grabbing bandwagon, in the States where the majors find themselves going head to head with low cost carriers, they have not instituted the policy.
So in Canada, with Westjet a constant thorn in the big guys’ sides, we may not see that same broadstroke maneouver. Let’s see what emerges out of the clouds over the next few weeks.
South of the border travel agents are already pouncing on the solution. One way tickets are now available on almost all flights. Forget the return fare and start buying two one way tickets. And when that is foiled, return to the back-to- back tickets the airlines hated.
The time has passed when there is a goose with a golden egg. the airlines just don’t realize that yet.