Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Travellers furious over hidden airline fees

FED-up travellers have vented their frustrations about hidden airline fees as part of a new campaign hoping to provoke change in the industry.

Three US travel advocacy groups: the Business Travel Coalition, the American Society of Travel Agents and Consumer Travel Alliance have joined together to create a new website, MadAsHellAboutHiddenFees.com.

The site encourages travellers to vent about situations where they feel they’ve been ripped off or surprised by extra fees as part of a push to make airline pricing more transparent.

“(Travellers) are tired of arriving at the airport and finding huge unexpected costs for travel services they thought were part of the ticket price,” Kevin Mitchell, Chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, said.

Common passenger gripes include being hit up for advanced seating, extra baggage and wanting more legroom.

Traveller Paul, from New York, said he was shocked when he was hit with extra charges while booking discounted airline tickets online.

"I first joined the $9 fee club from Spirit Airlines for the cost of $39 in order to receive a discounted fare," Paul said.

"Just as I was about to submit my payment information I was prompted to the seat selection screen and to my dismay I discovered there was a hidden charge of $85 and 10 minutes to choose a seat.

"Needless to say I am miffed and I think this is an unfair practice."

Passengers aren't the only ones frustrated by the fees, with travel agents complaining airlines are making it difficult for them to compare ticket prices.

“For a travel agent, comparing air travel costs without fee transparency is like trying to read a book with half the pages torn out,” Paul Ruden, Senior Vice President of Legal and Industry Affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents, said.

To coincide with the launch of their website the groups conducted a survey of nearly 1400 travellers, finding that two-thirds of respondents had been surprised at the airport by unexpected fees and 99 per cent want airline to disclose all of their fees on all sites selling their tickets.

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