Hidden airline fees under attack, industry pushing back

It isn’t so much the airline fees that are being targeted these days: it’s the extent to which they are hidden. Three advocacy groups are pushing for airlines to do a better job of disclosing how they’ll nail passengers for extra cash. So, a battle of paper is emerging. On one side, advocates are pushing a petition to get airlines to open the kimono a bit more. And on the other, airlines are looking to protect the paper they’re stacking from ancillary fees.

The stakes are high: last year, the airline industry pulled in a whopping $8 billion for extra charges. They stand to do even more this year, thanks to a recovering travel market.

The American Society of Travel Agents, Business Travel Coalition and Consumer Travel Alliance are getting together to push for fee transparency and to “allow travel booking companies access to fee schedules, making comparisons easier among airlines by third parties.”
According to the Dallas Morning News:

Travelers “are tired of arriving at the airport and finding huge unexpected costs for travel services they thought were part of the ticket price,” said Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition, which lobbies for corporate travelers. “It’s time for consumers, corporate travel managers and travel agents to stand up and say, ‘We’re not going to take it anymore!’ “

Meanwhile, the airline industry is marking its territory:

“We remain confident that the level of transparency that some opine doesn’t exist, in fact, does exist,” said Air Transport Association spokesman David Castelveter, who points out that coverage of airline fees has become ubiquitous and that even casual travelers are likely aware of fees. “I went to the websites of all our members, and there isn’t one of our carriers that didn’t have bag fees prominently displayed when you book.”

The goal is to drop the petitions to the Department of Transportation on September 23, 2010.

[photo by williamcho via Flickr]

Double-check your credit card statement – Hotel tip

Hidden hotel charges can appear on a credit card statement weeks after your stay, even if you paid your balance at checkout. Generally, these phantom charges include amenities like Internet access and parking. Be sure to scan your credit card statement to be sure you were charged the correct amount — and not charged twice.

Also, be wary If you’ve used a voucher for a meal at the hotel restaurant; the discount may suddenly disappear. The worst offense I’ve personally experienced was when the shopping spree of another guest was charged to my room.

If this happens to you, just contact the billing department at the hotel. They understand that this happens and are happy to work with you.