Tuesday, 1 March 2005

The Amazing Race 7, Episode 1 (airline codesharing)

Long Beach, CA (USA) - Lima (Peru) - Ancon (Peru) - Lima (Peru) - Cusco (Peru) - Huambutio (Peru) - Pisac (Peru) - Cusco (Peru)

The Amazing Race began its seventh season with the racers being required by the producers of the reality-TV show — at the behest, presumably, of the airlines that have bought product placements within the show along with their sponsorships — to take connecting flights from Los Angeles to Lima via Miami or New York on USA-based airlines, rather than the nonstop flight on LAN Chile, leaving at about the same time, that would have gotten them to Lima almost six hours earlier. That’s exactly the same LAX-Lima flight on LAN Chile that would have been part of the fastest route for the contestants in the first leg of The Amazing Race 5 a year ago. Amazing indeed!

Even given a free choice, of course, it’s often difficult to figure out which airlines fly to where you want to go, especially because so many airlines put their code-share flight numbers on flights actually operated by other airlines, in order to pretend they fly to more places than they actually do.

Codesharing is fraud. It gives no benefit to travellers or consumers. Airlines lie about this, but they’ve had “interline” agreements in place for years that allow them to offer through fares, through ticketing, through baggage checking, and frequent flyer mileage credits between airlines completely independently of which airlines’ codes are placed on the flight.

No actual airline service or benefit to travellers is actually dependant to the slightest degree on cadesharing. Codesharing is done for the sole purpose of misleading consumers about which airline operates the flight, which destinations the airline “serves”, how many flights they actually operate to those places, and what services and amenities will be available on those flights.

In a more complex way, by making a set of connections appear to be on the same airline, when it’s actually between different airlines, codesharing causes flights to be ranked higher in the responses to flight availability requests provided to travel agencies by Computerized Reservation Systems — misleading travellers directly by distorting which connections are shown first by travel agency Web sites, and misleading travellers indirectly by misleading offline travel agents who have no easy way, in any of the CRS’s I’ve used, to override the display mis-prioritization of interline connections fraudulaently labeled as online codeshare connections.

Quite simply, Airline X puts its shared code on a flight operated by Airline Y because it believes that more people will buy tickets on that flight if it is labelled as a flight by Airline X than if it is truthfully labelled as a flight by Airline Y. There’s no “need” for that, no excuse for that, and no reason for the DOT not to exercise its authority to ban codesharing as a deceptive business practice.

I’ve talked about this before in relation to previous seasons of The Amazing Race and, more importantly, the problems it causes for real-life travellers. This time, however, there is something you can do about it: the USA Department of Transportation (DOT) is soliciting public comments through 14 March 2005, for consideration in the DOT’s first major review in years of its rules for codesharing.

Not surprisingly, there’s a catch: the DOT is not proposing to crack down on the deception of codesharing, but to Do The Wrong Thing by reducing the extent to which airlines have to disclose which service labelled with the airline’s flight number is actually operated by other airlines.

That’s an outrage, and deserves the strongest public condemnation.

If you’ve ever gone to the wrong terminal to check in, maybe even missed a flight, because it was really operated from a different terminal by a different airline; if you’ve ever had to change terminals inconveniently while making connections because your “online” connection between flights “on the same airline” involved a codeshare flight at a different terminal; if you’ve ever booked a flight you thought would be on one airline, and found yourself on a different one that you wouldn’t knowingly have chosen, or wouldn’t have paid as much for; if you’ve ever found yourself on a codeshare flight that lacked the in-flight amenities or service that the airline in whose name you booked advertises that it offers on all its own flights (but doesn’t offer on flights with its label that are actually operated by other airlines) — this is your chance to give the DOT an earful.

Read the new rules proposed by the DOT and the sleazy and disingenuous arguments from United Airlines (supported by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, US Airways, and Orbitz.com) on which they are based. If it isn’t obvious what’s wrong with the DOT proposal, see the argument against the proposal from Southwest Airlines (self-interested but nonetheless accurate) and my analysis of code-sharing and airline alliances. (The DOT Web site also includes the complete docket of comments from airlines and the public.)

By government standards, it’s (relatively) easy to submit your comments:

  1. Go to the comment submission Web page.
  2. Enter “19083” in the “Docket ID” box.
  3. Choose “OST” [Office of the Secretary of Transportation] from the “Operating Administration” pull-down menu.
  4. Click either the “Enter a Comment” or “Attach a File” box next to “Submission Method”.
  5. Fill in as much of your personal information as you like. (Keep in mind that whatever you fill in will be posted on the Web with your comment.)
  6. Click “Continue”. Depending on which option you chose, you’ll either get a box to type in your comments (4000 characters maximum), or a page to upload a file of comments of any length that you’ve prepared on your own computer (in text, PDF, RTF,TIFF, Wordperfect, or MS-Word format).

To be considered, your comments must be received by 5 p.m. Washington, DC, time on Monday, 14 March 2005.

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 1 March 2005, 23:59 (11:59 PM)

I accidently only recorded the first hour of last night's episode 1 Amazing Race 7.
Does anyone know when/if it will be rebroadcast?

Posted by: Anonymous, 2 March 2005, 10:52 (10:52 AM)

It should be rebradcast on Sunday.

Posted by: Janice, 2 March 2005, 19:02 ( 7:02 PM)

i want to know if the season seven of amazing race will visit here in manila? thank you!!!

Posted by: leby, 3 March 2005, 05:05 ( 5:05 AM)

Who came in last on 3/2/05? We missed the last 10 minutes due to electrical power outtage...THANKS!!!

Posted by: J, 3 March 2005, 13:39 ( 1:39 PM)

Cool down dude. What's the big deal about codesharing? It's obvious and completely disclosed who's operating the flight. In fact, with most airlines, codeshared flights have four-digit numbers, while others have 1-3 digits.

Posted by: Mike, 12 March 2005, 02:58 ( 2:58 AM)

We accidentally did not tape the season finale of the Amazing Race on 5/10. Does anyone know if it will re-broadcast or how to get a tape?

Posted by: wendy, 12 May 2005, 17:15 ( 5:15 PM)

also desperaely seeking a copy of amazing race finale last tuesday...

please contact me if you can help!

Posted by: lisa, 17 December 2005, 22:38 (10:38 PM)

There *are* consumer advantages to codesharing, I can think of three immediately off the top of my head.

1. Convenience: using a single airline for check-in, ticketing and connections (through baggage) makes life a lot easier. You can take a flight on your regional airline (say Comair) and connect through to a SkyTeam flight with little hassle. Imagine instead you had to go claim your bags and re-check again for your Delta flight across the country. This saves the consumer time.

2. Price: You can sometimes save money on codeshare flights because competitors inexplicably offer different pricing and deals. I have often seen flights advertized by Northwestern to be cheaper than those by Alaska Airlines, when ASA was the operating carrier! Same for United-Air Canada and on one occasion America West-USAir. Competition benefits the consumer more than if the single operating carrier's pricing policy was in place.

3. Reward miles: Allows the customer more chances to collect them. You can rack up United Mileage Plus miles on any Star Alliance flight. Compare this to if you had to have separate reward programs for every single airline. Another benefit for the consumer.

What were your drawbacks again? Getting confused at the terminal? That is your fault, not the airline. Being mislead by which carrier operates the flight? This is clearly spelled out on any airline ticket you buy, and also evident by the flight number...typically four-digits starting with 3-9.

Save your beef for The Amazing Race. The travel routes and timing are totally contrived and scripted, such that the "less exciting but practical/faster" route is not allowed, and there are constant stop-gaps and catch-up points to make sure that no one every really gets too far ahead to make the show boring. The Amazing Race is the real fraud here, not airline codesharing. Sheesh!

Posted by: Peaceout, 27 March 2006, 16:55 ( 4:55 PM)

The commenter above, "Peaceout", is mistaken. Airlines want people to think that codesharing is neceaary for the things "Peaceout" lists (through check-in, through fares, and accrual of frequent flyer miliage credits with one airline for connecting flights on multiple airlines). But none of those things require codesharing, as I said in my original post,, and as I said in my own comments to the USA Department of Transportation: http://hasbrouck.org/articles/Hasbrouck_DOT_comments-14MAR2005.pdf

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 27 March 2006, 17:22 ( 5:22 PM)
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