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2 Same Flights, 2 Different Prices: Frequent Flyer Discrepancies

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s largest airline is making changes after we uncovered frequent flyers were paying more for some plane tickets.

It was an online booking a few weeks ago that left Patrick Smith and his business partner asking why they were paying so much more.

Delta didn’t have any answers for them until we got involved.
WCCO investigates the surprising results we found when we compared prices and what Delta’s doing about it now.

Most of us will take anything that makes life a little easier in the labyrinth of air travel. Whether it’s a
a better position in the security line, priority seating or bonus miles, but paying more to fly?

Business executives Patrick Smith and Steve Lisle happened to be booking flights side-by-side from MSP to St. Louis a few weeks ago.

“We were a bit shocked and confused as to how this was happening because we were booking the exact same flight,” Smith said.

They were getting nearly a $300 difference for an economy fare. Lisle was getting the cheaper ticket and he wasn’t logged in to his Sky Miles account. They thought a call to Delta would clear things up.

“She said that’s the way their system works, that’s the way their system is set up and that was the end of the conversation,” Smith said.

“We’re like you’ve got to be kidding me, right?” Lisle added.

The men set out to see how often this happens, thinking they’ve overpaid for who knows how long.

We were there when they checked five trips with the same dates and the same flight numbers.

This time, Smith’s not logged into his frequent flyer plan.
They found from MSP to LAX a $124 difference for economy fare and more than $1,000 separated the first-class fare.

The same thing happened for two more trips. So in three-out-of-five tests, the frequent flyer would be paying more. The other times the prices were the same.

“We haven’t found one yet where the frequent flyer gets a better price,” Lisle said.

We tried three cards in tests of our own. Again, we found without the card in one trip of the three, it was cheaper. There was a $168 difference. When we called Delta they blamed the price differences on a computer problem they’ve now fixed.
In a statement, Paul Skrbec, a Delta spokesperson said, “The differences of how information was presented between logged in and non-logged in customers has been resolved. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this caused while we worked to resolve the issue.”

The company couldn’t tell us how long it went on and said they wouldn’t be notifying customers of the problem but if travelers call, they will look into it on a case-by-case basis.

Passengers who thought they were getting something for all they do spend, now are considering their options after something Delta calls a computer glitch — that may cost the airline in the end.

“I am considering taking my airline business elsewhere and working with a different airline,” Smith said.

The founder of a consumer website called airfarewatchdog.com said he wasn’t surprised by this story. He said he hears about computer problems with the airlines all the time.

George Hobica says in most cases, frequent-flyer programs are a great way to get rewarded for being a loyal customer, but he says passengers shouldn’t buy stuff without going to the online shopping mall of an airline first. He says there are often extra-mile rewards when you spend money on anything from vases to aspirin.

If you’re looking for more information, check out airfarewatchdog.com or evreward.com.

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