The past few years have been a challenge for every business, though it's hard to think of many that have been upended as much as airlines. Persuading people to get on a plane to travel with a hundred or so other people they don't know isn't easy--especially during a global pandemic. As a result, airlines have made a variety of changes designed to ease anxiety.
Early on, those changes included blocking middle seats, requiring masks, implementing extensive cleaning, and providing customers with more flexibility by eliminating change fees. Now, Delta is the first airline to make another change that should make customers very happy--extending tickets through the end of next year.
Usually, airline tickets are valid for a year after they are issued. Most of the major airlines extended that deadline during the pandemic through the end of this year to provide travelers with additional flexibility. The idea was to remove uncertainty at a time when people weren't sure whether they should spend money on a plane ticket they may not be able to use as conditions change.
Now, Delta has extended that through the end of 2023, as the Omicron variant creates a new wave of uncertainty around the world. Under this change, a ticket has to be reissued by the end of next year, for use through 2024.
It might seem like a small change, but it's actually a big deal. Before the pandemic, the trend line for airlines was to make it seem like they had lowered the price of tickets by adding fees for just about everything. Want to choose your seat in advance? There's a fee for that. Have a bag to check? No problem, just pay another fee.
And, if you wanted to cancel or make a change to your non-refundable ticket, you usually had to pay a fee of as much as $250. That meant that if you paid $400 for a round trip ticket, it would only be worth $150 toward a new itinerary in the future.
When faced with the reality that travel was one of the last things on people's minds, airlines relented--making it much easier to make changes. By eliminating the fees associated with changing travel plans, and by extending the time they have to use a ticket's value, it gave people flexibility.
The goal, of course, is that it would encourage people to buy plane tickets for that trip they were planning, knowing that even if things changed, they wouldn't lose out. Extending the time you can use a ticket is significant since the recent surge in Covid-19 cases means many people aren't sure when they'll want to travel again. Will it be this year? Maybe, but knowing you have until the end of next year to rebook a ticket through the end of 2024 makes it seem a lot less risky to buy a ticket right now.
Really, the lesson here is pretty simple: Doing the right thing for your customers is always the right thing to do. It's also almost always good for business. Delta is making this change because it gives customers additional peace of mind that, if they book a flight now but are unable to travel, they'll still be able to use their ticket in the future.
The change even applies to Basic Economy fares, though those tickets are subject to a cancellation fee according to updated guidelines introduced last year.
If your goal is to encourage people to travel, making it as risk-free as possible to hand over their money in exchange for a ticket is just good business. The best thing any business can do right now eliminates uncertainty and doubt for their customers.
That doesn't just apply to airlines, by the way. Anything you can do to make it easier on your customers goes a long way toward giving them peace of mind. And that's not just good for your customers, it's good for your business.