I booked a flight to the German capital with Air Berlin, and I received the usual confirmation and invoice by email. Later, I received another message which informed me that, if I was interested in travelling with more comfort, I had the possibility to participate in an auction to be assigned a seat next to mine, to be left unoccupied among those unbooked. In practice, the idea was to make an offer through a digital system, and the higher bids would win this unusual contest.
Being curious, I tested the procedure, and tried offering one euro, to discover that the minimum bid at that time was 60 euro. Sure! The flight coincided with a period of great affluence to Berlin (for the ITB event), and it stood to reason that the seats had been sold anyway. This is a valid opportunity, more likely, at times of low demand.
Utilising unoccupied spaces to make business is a simple and fantastic idea, without any commitment on the part of the airline. Indeed, the auction being managed internally, it can be kept open until shortly before the flight, allowing to choose whether to assign the seat to the auction bidder or a passenger, depending on the amount offered.
Hotels and flights have a number of similarities, including the fact that both are targeted to travellers, and both are perishable items once the relevant reference period has expired, i.e. the flight for airplanes, the night for hotels.
Just like with airlines, one of the reference parameters for hotels is occupancy, taking it as a given that some of the rooms will not be occupied, with a significant impact on revenues. In my opinion, by introducing the sale of vacant seats, Air Berlin (I don't know if other carriers, too, have started a similar practice) has found an excellent solution, which could positively modify the air transport business.
Could hotels, which share similar problems, work out something similar?
Of course, the two services have very different use characteristics; but if any practicable options were identified, they would have a significant impact on the hotel industry.
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