Dear KLM, why try to rip me off and then make me use the throwaway pricing trick?

Last week, I was in Zurich for a quick work trip, and while I was arriving from Brussels, I was going to depart onwards to Amsterdam Schipol for the next leg of my trip. While I could get BRU-ZRH as another leg on my BOM-BRU-BOM ticket (since Jet Airways had a interline partnership with Swiss), I found some pretty exhorbitant fares on the orphan leg of ZRH-AMS.

To give you a bit of background, I had some constraints, this being a business trip. I was working the whole day in Zurich, and I did not want to arrive in AMS very late in the evening considering my eventual destination was Rotterdam which is a while away in terms of travel by train. So, I zeroed in on a 1730 take-off from ZRH. There were 2 flights, a Swiss flight and a KLM flight which arrived within 10 minutes of each other at AMS. No deal breaker this, I decided to go with KLM because it allowed me to fly an Embraer 190 RJ which I had never flown before, and with my Platinum status on KLM, I would be able to get lounge access also while at the airport.

Both the flights gave me a little old-school jolt when priced. The Swiss flight on a single leg priced at 740 Swiss Franc in Economy and 1234 Swiss Franc for a Business flight. The KLM one decided to give me only a business class seat for 1234 Swiss Franc. Heck, the seats were the same, and all the difference was the curtain after the first 4 rows, and a small snack served in the front of the plane.

KLM pricing ZRH-AMS

And when I priced a round-trip for ZRH-AMS-ZRH, I was getting the whole trip at 393 Swiss Franc on Swiss and a similar price on KLM. However, when I wanted to pick up an example for the blog, the pricing right now shows 808 CHF.

ZRH-AMS-ZRH pricing

Now, I haven’t done this for a very long while, but I asked the TA to get me the RT fare on KLM given the circumstances. I did not want to be paying for a business class seat which was not business, which was only an hour and a half of flying and pay 4x to get a snack. I did not need to come back to ZRH since I was eventually going to take the train from Rotterdam to Brussels to take my flight back. I did pay for the two segments, and yes, I checked in too! But since I did not fly the return segment (must have been reported as a no-show) I did not get the miles on the return leg!

Forced me to ask a question, what makes airlines think they can still make this obscene amount of money on such fares just because the business traveller is involved? For that matter, a non-frequent traveller may be involved who needs to jet across in an emergency. Why make them pay 4x to do these 300-400 miles distances. Is it justified? A 10 percent premium is different for a one way fare, but a 300 percent fare just got me irked!

A decade back they used to put in the conditions of carriage conditions against such use of their pricing. But it looks like 10 years down, and they still haven’t learnt a thing to become pro-flyer!

Comments

  1. KLM (and other airlines) are getting away with robbery. If you book a return economy ticket and don’t show up for the outbound flight they cancel the whole trip and not just the leg that you didn’t turn up for. It’s fair enough that they don’t refund you for a departure you didn’t show up for as they obviously have been unable to sell it tom someone else. But why are they able to also cancel the return leg at the same time? The return leg can at tiems be several days or weeks later and I am certain that KLM will in most cases sell the seat again. To me this feels an awful lot like stealing stolen property. A couple of years ago I was flying KLM from Almaty in Kazakhstan to Manchester via Amsterdam. I had booked this ticket month in advance and this was the return leg of a round-trip. While away I found out I had to go to Trondheim in Norway on my return. I checked, and the best connection from Manchester was with KLM via Amsterdam, and I was planning to leave later on the same day as I returned from Almaty. I then realised that my flight from Almaty arrived in Amsterdam in time for me catch an earlier flight from Amsterdam to Trondheim. So I checked if it was possible to get off in Amsterdam instead of travelling all the way back to Manchester only to trun around and check-in for a flight back to Amsterdam. I was told this was not possible. Why, only God and KLM knows. Anyway, they couldn’t have stopped me getting off in Amsterdam if I only had hand luggage so I considered if that was possible. I was then shocked to find out that the price of a return ticket from Amsterdam to Trondheim was almost twice as much as the return flight from Manchester even though I would be travelling on exactly the same flights between Amsterdam and Trondheim on both the outbound and return journeys. Why a ticket for flying less costs more makes sense is something I would love for KLM to explain to me. As I needed to return to Manchester after the Trondheim visit it proved too costly and just be too much hassle to try to cut out the uneccessary return flights between Amsterdam and Manchester. The logic of it all defines me, but obviously makes perfect sense to higher powers such as KLM.

  2. There is more to it. Your suggested solution of buying a roundtrip is not a solution – there already have been people suing the airline and the outcome of that was simple:

    – you are entitled to a refund of the taxes when you throw away a segment
    – the airline is entitled to re-price your ticket if you are a no-show

    This in fact has been happening with KLM. If you book through a TA, they will be automatically billed afterwards for the price difference. Consumers booking on KLM.com have so far not been billed, but rumors suggest that the airlines are preparing to start doing just that.

  3. It’s funny that they still do this, but it must still be worthwhile. Let’s just look at the your example on KLM, $1200 one way vs $200 one way (splitting the cost of the return trip). All they need to do is get one out of six passengers wanting a one way ticket to purchase only a one way ticket for them to double their income.

    • @Dave I find it irritating when they think of the customer as a dork and try to get supernormal profits out of it! Play fair is all I have to tell them!

  4. You are quite right about the absurdity of a return ticket being far cheaper than a one-way ticket; however. the reason why you did not earn any mileage for the onward leg MAY BE due to the inventory class of your booked trip. You should re-check if that class qualifies for mileage accrual; if it does, IMO there is no harm to complain with Flying Blue for the missing miles, notwithstanding the no-show on the return leg.

  5. Welcome to Europe. For whatever reason, legacy carriers seem to think they can get away with one way or minimum stay restrictions even with all the LCC pressure. Sad part – the do.

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