TURBULENCE OVER AIRLINES' 'ADD ON' FEES
MPs investigating how companies hit passengers with extra charges
GOVERNMENT ministers are investigating how airlines make extra cash by hitting passengers with ‘add on’ charges and how they inflate the cost of flying.
The British Department for Transport (DfT) fears millions of travellers are being ripped off with hidden and unexpected charges often imposed at the last minute.
It is understood an official investigation could be launched and airlines forced to be more transparent over the price of tickets and extra charges such as booking and baggage fees.
Before the ‘no-frills’ travel revolution, airlines offered broadly the same deal; often including a meal, drink and a baggage allowance
The rise of budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair and other carriers mean every carrier has different policies and costs. A study last year discovered 66 of the world’s largest airlines made £33 billion – over €46 billion – through ancillary revenue including fees and in-flight meals; nearly 10% of income. Under the microscope will be add on charges built up during the booking process – including booking fees, seat reservation charges, baggage charges and fees for extra leg room. A review will also cover more contentious charges such as changing names on a booking and printing boarding passes. The DfT aviation strategy is to be published later this year and will include plans to ensure all charges are clearly visible when booking allowing for easy comparisons to be made across airlines. It is designed to make sure the price seen by passengers is the price they pay – and may even rein in charges though excessive. Aviation minister Baroness Sugg said: “When passengers book flights, they can sometimes be hit with additional charges over and above the original quoted flight cost. “We want to ensure people have as much information as possible when making decisions over which flight to book. “We will explore ways to improve and enhance the information available, so passengers can make wellinformed decisions before deciding who to fly with.” Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents British airlines, said: “Carriers operate in a highly competitive, dynamic and global industry and offering great customer service to passengers is their number one priority. “We are engaging with the government on its aviation strategy and look forward to the publication of a green paper later this year, and will respond accordingly to many of the policy discussions, including on charges.” Both Ryanair and easyJet insist they have no ‘hidden charges’ and all optional charges and fees were clearly displayed during the booking process. One airline executive stated: “All our charges are clear...if you don’t like them, don’t book with us.”