Tiger Airways Australia has corrected claims it has made about the fares charged by its competitors while it was grounded as unsafe by CASA.

This statement, issued by the ACCC, sets out the matter with clarity.

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However it is important to note how variable the fares displayed to consumers on airline web sites can be, even within a matter of minutes. Airlines shift the availability of their full, conditional and ultra low fare offerings according to their internal ‘yield management’ policies.

It has lead Plane Talking for example to archive screen shots of fare offerings when it reports on such matters to confirm what are sometimes quite astonishing results, such as finding Qantas undercutting the available best fare on Jetstar on flights that were scheduled to depart very close to each other.

Keep your screen shots. They could be important.

While we don’t have the resources of the ACCC to conduct a broad study, there is one area in which it may wish to cast its searchlight in airfare offers, and that is whether or not airlines target frequent flyer members with less attractive offers if they quote their membership numbers at time of booking compared to using a parallel computer purged of cookies and on which no ‘loyalty’ program details are entered.

The suspicion is that airlines may regard a ‘loyalty’ program member as a won customer, and therefore not pitch the cheapest possible seats, which are offered to what appears to be a winnable customer.

Is such behavior permitted under Australian consumer law. The last time I asked that question the ACCC took the view that the question was irrelevant until the behavior in question was demonstrated as happening. It had it seemed bigger matters to consider above and beyond the possibility that loyalty scheme members were being treated as suckers.

Perhaps we might get some clarity on this in the future.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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