Ancillary airline fees are wrecking havoc on corporate managed travel programs and the U.S. Department of Transportation must require airlines to make add-on fee data easily accessible, says the Business Travel Coalition (BTC). This includes disclosure not only on airline websites, but also to the travel agency channel through any GDS in which an airline has agreed to participate, the BTC concluded from the results of a new survey of 188 travel industry executives.
The results were released ahead of Wednesday's House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation hearings on airline fees. The BTC is testifying at the hearings. Survey participants included corporate travel managers and travel agency executives who were probed on their views of airline product unbundling and ancillary fees.
Top-line results represent a sea change in thinking among travel industry professionals regarding government oversight in commercial air transportation, the BTC noted:
* 100 percent of corporate travel managers indicated that unbundling and these extra fees have caused serious problems for their managed travel programs.
* 86 percent of travel managers believe that airlines, absent government regulation, will not make fair, adequate and readily accessible disclosure of their extra fees and charges so that travel managers and/or their TMCs can do comparison shopping of the all-in prices for air travel across carriers.
* 95 percent of travel managers support the proposal that the U.S. DOT require airlines to make ancillary fee data available and easily accessible to the travel agency channel through any GDS in which that airline has agreed to participate.
* 95 percent of travel managers do not support an airline distribution model wherein access to airfare and ancillary services content is available only on airlines’ websites, or through direct connections to multiple airlines’ inventory systems.
"Importantly, survey participants are business people who, as a general proposition, do not favor government intervention in a marketplace," said BTC Chairman Kevin Mitchell. "However, as with BTC, who testified four times since 1999 against passenger rights legislation, these industry experts lived through 10 years of airline stonewalling and broken promises and finally realized that the airlines were never going to take extended tarmac delays seriously until made to do so. Travel managers and travel agency executives do not want to wait 10 years, or even 1 more year to see if the airlines will properly disclose their ancillary fees in all channels in which they sell their products - and thus already make their published, but now incomplete, fares available, he continued."
Here are sample comments from survey participants:
* “Determining the actual cost of transportation is now so difficult that we cannot help departments prepare travel budgets for the following year.”
* “The comparison of different providers’ options is difficult as there are all-inclusive, partly-inclusive, status-inclusive, non-inclusive prices. At the moment the extra services and fees are not available for total cost calculation in our preferred channel, the GDS.”
* “I can no longer manage costs as the fees are hidden. There is no way to determine if the traveler paid for baggage or upgraded to business class.”
* “Because airlines are not forthcoming with information, we cannot relay the true cost of an itinerary to the traveler.”
* “Many airlines want to hide these charges from buyers so that they can distort the real ticket cost in the GDS and other distribution channels.”
* “Many consumers still use their local travel agency as a resource for making travel arrangements, therefore, it is essential they have that all the information concerning ancillary fees available to them/and the consumer at the point of sale.”
* “All fee data should be made available to travel agents through their GDSs. All airlines should be required to provide full and fair disclosure by law.”
Full BTC survey results can be downloaded at www.businesstravelcoalition.com.