Teletext Holidays chairman Steve Endacott weighs up the pros and cons of Thomas Cook’s move to create a new chargeable extra in the traditional package holiday
I personally applaud Thomas Cook’s creative commercial thinking behind identifying sun beds as another chargeable optional extra in a package holiday.
Low-cost airlines first brought this phycology to the market place by making luggage a chargeable extra and then pre-booked seats.
They rightly pointed out that this allows them to charge a lower price for the basic flight seat and leaves customers to choose what they want to pay for.
For example, why should a customer who takes fewer clothes via hand luggage pay the same as a customer taking a 22kg suitcase, which requires airline staff to check it in, transport it to the plane and then load and unload it?
In this case there is a clear cost saving that the airline can pass on to reward hand luggage-only customers.
Pre-booked seats, when it was first introduced, was more controversial as there is minimal extra cost to implement this and most airlines already offered the service free of charge to its customers, who expected to be able to pre-book seats next to each other.
Supposed ‘full service’ airlines such as British Airways initially resisted such innovations, preferring to sell on the basis of differentiated service, but after a number of years of losing ground eventually followed suit.
Therefore, you can only applaud Thomas Cook for becoming the easyJet of the package holiday world and evolving its product offering to give customers the option of paying to pre-book the best sun beds.
Just like easyJet’s speedy boarding service, this not only is a valuable service to some customers, it also provides a degree of ‘show off-ability’ that they are smart enough to pre-book and can afford to do so. A few seasons of sun bed envy will soon see the uptake of this service soar.
The subtle down side of Thomas Cook launching this policy, is that it does allow its major competitor Tui to take the moral high ground over its differentiated holiday offering.
I am sure it will claim sun beds are so plentiful at its resorts that there is no need to pay extra to pre-book.
For me this has echoes of British Airways’ stance and is unlikely to have any real impact in a world where offering customers choice is just as ‘customer-centric’ as full service if it means the lead-in price is cheaper.
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