United CEO: Airfares Are Only Going To Get More Complicated

While regulators continue to push through rules intended to make airfares more transparent, airlines continue to pare base ticket prices down while charging fees for everything else that used to be included in the listed cost. Given all the potential permutations, it’s not surprising that Jeff Smisek, CEO of United Airlines, doesn’t see things getting simpler anytime soon.

“I think what you’re going to see is more choice,” he explains in an interview with the AP. “And choice can become complex.”

Also on the immediate horizon for the air travel business are more offers and marketing that is targeted at specific consumers and not just general demographic groups.

“We have an enormous amount of data about our consumers that we do not adequately use today,” says Smisek. “We know how frequently they travel, where they travel, when they travel. Often we know whether they’re renting a car, or a hotel. We know their propensity to upgrade or buy an upgrade.”

As for those people who bemoan the death of fee-free flying that included food, entertainment and checked bags for no extra cost, Smisek has this to say:

We’re in the business of getting people safely from point A to point B, on time, with their underwear. That’s what we do for a living and we are really good at it. The mental image people have of the glamour of flying was when flying was unaffordable. When I was a child, I didn’t fly – we couldn’t afford to fly. Flying was for rich people. Today, flying is for everybody.

Smisek says he doesn’t see the addition of new bag fees in the offing, so that’s a plus…

United CEO sees more passenger choice _ for a fee [AP.org]