Hidden Airline Fees Can Boost Costs 54 Percent

Hidden fees charged by airlines on popular routes can increase the base cost of an airline ticket by an average of 54 percent for a typical traveler with two checked bags and extra legroom, or by an average of 26 percent for a comparable one-bag traveler, the Consumer Travel Alliance (CTC) reports in a new analysis. The CTA wants Congressional and Department of Transportation (DOT) action to ensure travelers have transparency and choice.

“Our analysis showed that the hidden fees charged by airlines now rival the cost of the tickets themselves, often without any disclosure to the consumer at the time of purchase,” said Charles Leocha, director of the CTA. “For a family traveling in these tight fiscal times, those fees can be an unexpected shock totaling hundreds of dollars in unanticipated expenses. If airlines want to charge additional fees for their services, they should be required to disclose all of those fees through every ticketing channel, so consumers can compare complete travel costs.“

The analysis was conducted by examining the base fares and extra charges for nine major airlines for a typical October flight itinerary on four popular routes: New YorkLos Angeles, BostonWashington, ChicagoMiami, and Washington–Orlando. The analysis included just two of the many common fees now charged by the airlines: checked baggage and extra legroom. 

The CTA analysis showed:

*    A typical traveler requesting extra legroom and checking two bags would have to pay an average of 54 percent more than the base price of the ticket shown on a popular online travel site at time of purchase.
*    A traveler checking two bags would have to pay more than one-quarter (26 percent) of the price of the ticket in fees that were hidden at the time of the transaction.
*    The amount of hidden fees charged to a typical traveler with a single bag ranged from 10 percent to 82 percent of the price of the base fare on flights examined in the analysis.
*    The amount of hidden fees charged to a typical traveler with two bags ranged from 21 percent to 153 percent of the price of the base fare on flights in the analysis.

Route-Specific Findings

New York – Los Angeles

*    A traveler requesting extra legroom and checking a single bag would have to pay an average of 18 percent in hidden fees over the base price of the ticket.
*    The same traveler checking two bags would have to pay an average of 36 percent in hidden fees over the base price of the ticket.

Boston – Washington

*    A traveler requesting extra legroom and checking a single bag would have to pay an average of 42 percent in hidden fees over the base price of the ticket.
*    The same traveler checking two bags would have to pay an average of 101 percent in hidden fees over the base price of the ticket. 

Chicago – Miami

*    A traveler requesting extra legroom and checking a single bag would have to pay an average of 26 percent in hidden fees over the base price of the ticket.
*    The same traveler checking two bags would have to pay an average of 48 percent in hidden fees over the base price of the ticket.

Washington – Orlando

*    A traveler requesting extra legroom and checking a single bag would have to pay an average of 32 percent in hidden fees over the base price of the ticket.
*    The same traveler checking two bags would have to pay an average of 66 percent in hidden fees over the base price of the ticket.

Citing the results of the study, the CTA called on Congress and theDOT to take swift action to ensure that all ancillary airline fees are fully disclosed to travelers through every distribution channel, so the total cost of air travel can be compared between carriers.

“Booking air travel today can be like shopping with a blindfold on,” said Leocha. “Without price transparency, air travelers have no way to find or compare the real and final cost of their tickets. Airlines stripping out those fees for baggage, extra legroom, and other options are deceiving and confusing passengers about the true cost of air travel. It is imperative that Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation take action to ensure that travelers have access to the complete information they need to make informed decisions about these important travel expenses.”

Visit www.consumertravelalliance.org.

 

Read more on