Is the end of the 800 number at hand?

Why do we still have 800 numbers?

It’s for old people, the Cranky Flier blog suggests today in wondering why it was news that Frontier Airlines is dropping its 800 number for reservations.

Brett Snyder has memorized them all over the years — including Northwest’s 800-225-2525, which an unscientific Twitter survey revealed is still stuck in people’s head — but that was when people paid for long distance on a per call basis. Who does that anymore?

Back in the day, a toll-free number was a necessity. If you weren’t booking through a travel agent or visiting a city ticket office, then that 800 number was pretty much the only way to book. If airlines wanted the business, they had to make it cheap to call them. Of course, long distance calling was very expensive, and we’re not talking about ancient history here.

In the 1980s and into the 1990s, people were probably paying as much as 35 to 50 cents a minute to call across the country, and that’s before adjusting for inflation. An airline couldn’t survive forcing people to pay that much money just for the privilege of reserving a ticket. Toll-free numbers were needed.

Today, however, long distance isn’t even something that most individuals think about. Mobile phones generally have unlimited talk time anywhere in the US. The same goes for the shrinking number of landlines in existence. They’re often bundled with cable, internet, and yes, unlimited domestic calling.

Can you still pay for long distance as an individual? Oh you sure can. AT&T has a plan where you pay $2.99 a month and then 10 cents a minute to anywhere in the US. Does anyone actually have this plan? Or should I say, does anyone under 60 have this plan?

Frontier is going to save about $2 million a year cutting 800 numbers.