Who Cares About Booking Fees From Travel Sites?

I bought the latest issue of Wired magazine. Why do I only read magazines when I travel? I’m not sure why, but that’s not the point of this post.

Reading through the magazine, I encountered a full-page ad for Delta Airlines. I snapped a photo with my incredibly old and lame camera phone:

No Bogus Booking Fees

If you can’t read that (and I don’t blame you), the main text goes like this:




First off, that’s a various dubious use of quotation marks. That usage is usually meant to imply that something is not what as it’s described, as in:

Our “free” flight that we bought using Air Miles cost $300.

It’s not like a booking fee is actually something else. It may be questionable business practice (though I don’t think it is for the big travel sites), but it’s still just a plain old fee for booking a flight.

Questionable quotes aside, I thought that was a bizarre message to feature in Delta’s ad in Wired. Booking fees usually are quite small, and they’ve actually been around forever. That’s how travel agents make (or used to make) money.

Is That Really a Differentiator?

Do they really think that Wired readers would eschew the obvious benefits of the Travelocitys (plural agreement? Arg!) and Expedias just to save a few bucks?

Other full page ads in Wired are for cigars, executive class travel with Air Canada and Hyatt hotels. I’m not implying that Wired readers are rich, but other ads suggest that they’re willing to pay for luxury goods.

I just don’t see ‘no booking fees’ as a compelling differentiator? Surely Delta has other offers that would be more compelling.


  1. The thing about airlines and travel in general is that they’ve lived for so long in a culture of miscellaneous fees. There’s no change here – the cycle is that people push back on a particular fee, and it drops off only to re-appear with a different name. I’m being totally conspiracy theory, but it really does seem to be how the industry works.

    Not an airline, but the ‘temporary’ airport improvement fee of $10 at YVR is not a permanent one of $15 added to every departure ticket. How else will they pay for the mini museum of west coast history and wildlife at the international arrivals hallway?

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