The UK civil aviation authority (CAA) has published a summary of optional fees charged by the major airlines operating in the UK, to try and make it easier for British holidaymakers to compare the true cost of airfares.
The table is listed by airline, and breaks down each carrier’s charges for everything from check-in, to priority boarding, making seat reservations, hold luggage and charges for paying by plastic.
The information is designed to add greater transparency to airfare pricing, with airline fees varying significantly and often depending on the route and the airline’s business model.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of the CAA, said: “For some passengers the headline ticket price will be the most expensive part of the booking, whilst for others the impact of optional fees and charges can change their view of the best overall price.
“Our table allows passengers to easily compare the optional fees that airlines charge, and it is important to consider those charges alongside the ticket price and the extra charges that could be applied before making their booking.”
In December 2011, the UK government announced plans to introduce legislation by the end of 2012 that will ban excessive surcharges for using a debit or credit card to buy items such as airline tickets.
It followed an investigation from the UK Office of Fair Trading, prompting calls for companies including booking agencies and airlines to be upfront about their extra charges.
The UK watchdog upheld a super-complaint by consumer group, Which? – who said budget airlines were among the worst offenders for charging “hidden” card fees.
In January, easyJet responded by making it free for customers to pay with a debit card (by removing its £8 “booking fee”) and instead adding a flat £9 “admin fee” to all payment methods.
The airline said the new flat fee makes the booking process more transparent, as it applies to all airfares and is automatically added to the quoted fare at the first stage of the booking, instead of at the end of the transaction.
But the airline’s “final price” displayed upfront doesn’t include additional extras such as baggage fees and speedy boarding.
Surcharges also continue to apply for easyJet customers booking with a credit card, in addition to the flat admin fee.
Ryanair currently charges a £6 per person, one-way “admin” charge, which customers can avoid by signing up for its new branded prepaid Mastercard.
Although customers who don’t read the small print could find themselves paying a host of other charges from the card provider.
In the US, new federal regulations were introduced in January to help protect consumers when booking flights by making the booking process more transparent.
Airlines in the States are now required to include the price of actual fare, inclusive of compulsory fees and taxes, upfront for an online booking.
But the advertised fares are still subject to the airline’s additional fees, which vary significantly.