2 Big Airline Policy Changes

Airlines are constantly updating their policies to generate maximum profits but two policy changes in February could change basic operating methods of the industry. I'll look today at what these developments mean for travelers and investors.

Frequent flyer changes
Frequent flyer programs have long been part of the airline business model. The collection of miles has served as a way for airlines to encourage repeat sales and give higher status to the most valued flyers.

For the large carriers, the number of miles earned was connected to the number of miles flown. This allowed customers good at finding long distance flights at good prices to be able to collect a large number of miles for a low ticket price.

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL  ) is bringing a new approach to the frequent flyer program to the legacy airlines. Starting Jan. 1, Delta flyers will earn miles based on dollars spent, not distance flown. Flyers will earn between 5 and 11 miles per dollar spent with a cap of 75,000 miles per ticket.

Although it represents a major shift among legacy carriers, this approach is not entirely new in the industry. Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV  ) , AirTran Airways, and JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU  ) all use this method for awarding frequent flyer miles.

If history's an indicator, other legacy airlines will be happy to match this program if Delta finds success. When Delta instituted a minimum annual spending requirement to get Silver Medallion status in the SkyMiles program, United Continental (NYSE: UAL  ) matched the policy change soon after.

With the U.S. airline industry now dominated by a smaller group of players, the matching of policies is becoming far easier. With Delta and Southwest both taking the dollars for miles approach, it would not be difficult for United Continental or American Airlines Group (NASDAQ: AAL  ) to join the trend as well. Flyers and investors should keep an eye on the success of Delta's new approach to see how likely it is to take hold at other carriers.

A goodbye to bereavement fares
Airlines are one of the few industries where companies offer discounts to families who have recently lost family members. However, not all airlines offer these deals and American Airlines Group has joined that club.

American Airlines Group will take on the policy of US Airways, which did not offer bereavement fares, and apply it companywide. By comparison, Southwest Airlines does not offer such discounts and both United and Delta appear to offer small discounts.

The future of bereavement fares really could go either way at this point. Although many recent industry changes have come about because of the reduced number of competitors, the decision by American falls in line with the airline's plan to unify policies between American Airlines and US Airways.

As for other airlines, the bereavement fares are often not too much lower than the other lowest fares and can be subject to availability. So as with many parts of this industry, the future of bereavement fares remains up in the air.

New approaches
Airlines are seeking to maximize earnings by adjusting policies across their businesses. With less competition, the airlines have more power to do so than ever before, and this could be a driver for earnings going forward.

Both travelers and investors should monitor how these policy changes shake out since it will have an impact on both their flying experience and their portfolios.

Record energy production is helping airlines -- and it can help you, too!
Record oil and natural gas production is revolutionizing the United States' energy position. Finding the right plays while historic amounts of capital expenditures are flooding the industry will pad your investment nest egg. For this reason, The Motley Fool is offering a comprehensive look at three energy companies set to soar during this transformation in the energy industry. To find out which three companies are spreading their wings, check out the special free report, "3 Stocks for the American Energy Bonanza." Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free. 


Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 12:18 PM, bobsinc wrote:

    the airlines are out to make money and stay in existence. You buy the fare ,but nothing else. You pay extra for bags, and food. Some of the airlines charge extra to sit in certain seats or to enter the plane before the rest of the passengers.

    I predict that there will be advertising posters on the walls and on seat backs .

    I haven't seen any airlines put in a pay toilet, but it may come to be. $1.00 per use, $.50 for toilet paper and $.25 for towels to dry you hands.This could be a b. ig money maker. Turn the heat up on the plane and sell bottled water. More water = more bathroom use.

Add your comment.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2858523, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/30/2014 6:01:53 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement