Traveller letters: Why should we pay 50 per cent more to have middle seats kept empty?

GOING THE SOCIAL DISTANCE

I've just read the article "The golden era of cheap travel is declared over" by Anthony Dennis. I understand the pressure airlines are under and the impact on pricing that keeping the middle seat empty as a result of social distancing requirements.

But I was surprised to read the quote from Alexandre de Juniac, the director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) where he stated, "it means two things: either you fly at the same price, selling the ticket at the same average price as before and then you lose an enormous amount of money, so it's impossible to fly for any airline. Or you increase the ticket price for a similar product by at least 50 per cent and then you are able to fly with a minimum profit."

I would have thought that keeping the middle seat empty would decrease ticket sales by a maximum of 30 per cent, so fail to understand the justification for suggesting an increase of at least 50 per cent. Shouldn't the trade off be a 30 per cent increase, not a minimum increase of 50 per cent. Am I missing something here?

Greg Zakrzewski, Kensington, NSW

EDITOR'S NOTE Airlines may, in fact, need to keep every adjacent seat to a passenger free and not only middle seat which has the potential to impact on profits and revenue.

FUEL'S PARADISE

With fuel prices at their lowest for some years and the prospect of airlines saving even more money fuel costs due to social isolating in planes, I question the reasons why these savings wouldn't be passed on to consumers...Oh, sorry! These are the same airlines that have been propped up, can "bump" you off a flight and don't have to give consumers compensation in any circumstances. What was I thinking?

Craig Tolson, Cheltenham, VIC

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LET'S GO DITCH

If mirror protocols for international arrivals into both Australia and New Zealand are created in terms of quarantine, then it would make economic sense to keep the proposed travel bubble going indefinitely. The number of Australians and New Zealanders who won't be heading to the rest of the world could stay in this region and help both economies to recover. It makes lots of sense on many levels

Joseph Mahon, South Yarra, VIC

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

I hope those of us who have paid for fares to the UK in August will get a credit to use next year. It may not be safe to go in early August but do not want to lose $9000 dollars in fares. Hopefully Singapore Airlines will give us a credit for 2021.

Robyn Lewis, Raglan, NSW

EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE

As far as I am aware, all airlines recirculate air within their cabins but the air is not filtered. On a long flight, this means you could potentially breathe in free floating virus particles continuously - a great way to catch infectious respiratory diseases not just sitting close to infected people. I believe airlines have the necessary infrastructure to add filters, and perhaps did so in the past, but in a similar vein to removing a strawberry from first class salads saving Delta around $200,000 a year, the filters are no longer in use due to cost saving measures. What can be done to encourage airlines to start using air filters again?

Gaia Julia, Brunswick, VIC

EDITOR'S NOTE: Most planes use a mix of fresh and recirculated air in their cabins, but there is debate about how healthy that air actually is. Read more here.

OH, CANADA

Big tick to Lake Louise Ski (Banff, Canada). I purchased a "Spring Pass" ski ticket ($A600) only for the mountain to be shut down by COVID-19. I used the pass for only three days. I asked for a partial refund and was expecting nothing, or at best a credit for next season ski ticket purchase. I was pleasantly surprised after they advised a cash refund would be forthcoming; and they calculated the three days I did use at the cheapest day ticket rate possible, not the full price rate! Go Canada.

Tony Cosma, Rosanna, VIC

TAKING COVER

A previous letter pointed out that travel companies are doing the right thing in offering refunds and credits. However, I'm not finding that to be the case with travel insurance. Like many others I had no choice but to cut my trip short and fly home, automatically ending my cover. It feels like I've paid for 12 months of cover, for which NIB can just bank as free money for no service.

I can understand that insurers can't insure far-reaching black swan events such as pandemics, and will exclude impacts of "government prohibitions". After all, companies have to manage their costs to stay afloat, and governments are meant to be acting for the common good.

I am not asking NIB to pay for my flights back. But given the circumstances, travel insurers should give credit for the unused portion of a policy, or enable people to freeze a policy, so they can continue travelling when conditions change. After all, insurers also have a role in helping the travel industry recover.

IAG is one insurer I know that has stepped up. I am disappointed that NIB hasn't, preferring to pocket the money. After this all blows over, I think Australians will remember the companies that did the right thing vs those that put profits first.

Adrianne Chen, Northgate, QLD

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