The Air Transport Users Council, Britain’s consumer organization for air travelers, recently released research findings regarding pricing on airline websites: Prices that in many cases bear no relationship to the actual cost of airline travel.
The council found that “extras” are usually quoted separately from the basic fare and normally in the latter stages of the booking process. Often, the first the passenger knows of these costs is after they have already chosen their flights and are just about to confirm the booking.
These extras include taxes, fees and charges quoted by various carriers on their websites during the booking process. Usually added to the original or advertised price are such items as air passenger duty, local airport taxes, passenger service charges, credit and debit card charges, fuel, security, insurance and even wheelchair contributions.
As the council points out, the advertised base price could be very low and bear no relationship to the actual cost. A third party might impose on a carrier some of the charges (such as airport taxes), but a large proportion of extra charges could be considered costs of doing business. For example, extra fuel costs are itemized separately as fuel surcharges, when they are simply a cost of doing business with any supplier be it cabin crew uniforms, or in-flight catering.
The study relates to a comparison of prices by airlines, where it found huge differences for identical flights.
It also found that even with newspaper advertising – where normality is now the thing following a complaint to the Advertising Standards Association – you pay the price advertised (as long as it has not changed in the meantime), and also shows examples where some airlines charge for the use of plastic, while others do not.