Hidden Air Fare Costs To Be Banned

Posted on: 06 January 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Laws banning hidden air fare costs are expected in force by the end of the year following final approval from Euro-MPs.

The move means airlines must include all airport taxes, fees and charges in the basic ticket price advertised to travellers.

All costs known at the time of publication must be clearly set out, making plain the total price customers will pay.

The new rules had already been agreed by EU transport ministers but needed the go-ahead from MEPs in Strasbourg.

The aim is to end misleading promotions in which ultra-low air ticket prices are highlighted, leaving out extra unavoidable costs which travellers must pay.

A European Parliament report on transparent air fares says air passengers have as much right as any other consumers to clear and comprehensive information about the price they actually have to pay - including online.

"This adds much needed transparency for passengers. It means that website prices and brochure prices will become open and clear. It is the right approach to ensure that price rises are not hidden any longer," says Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope.

The turnaround was also backed by Labour MEP Robert Evans.

"The European Parliament is protecting British citizens. The days when airline advertisements can be a con are over," he says.

Fellow Labour MEP Brian Simpson says holidaymakers would welcome the new clarity, adding: "When you spot a bargain flight online you'll be able to see the real price up front.

"It is time that consumers were clearly informed about the choices they make. When booking a flight online the price they see must be the price they pay."

The new rules follow a crusade by the European Commission which warned two months ago that one in three European consumers were still being misled when buying plane tickets.

The problem has soared thanks to increasing internet sales, particularly as online booking is often the only possibility with low-cost air carriers.

EU Consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva says there were "serious and persistent" problems involving operators promoting ultra-cheap fares, knowing that customers will have to pay other charges.

A simultaneous "sweep" of nearly 400 air travel websites based in most EU countries was organised by the commission in September 2008 - although the UK did not take part as the Office of Fair Trading was already involved in action against at least a dozen airlines for misleading advertising.

The commission found that 137 sites were breaking existing EU consumer rules by confusing - or deliberately misleading - ticket pricing and the availability of seats at the lowest fares.

Of those 137 websites, about half have still not made adequate changes, according to Ms Kuneva.

The new rules state that airlines must provide "comprehensive" ticket price information to customers, including on the internet.

Quoted fares "addressed directly to the travelling public" must include "all applicable taxes, non-avoidable charges, surcharges and fees known at the time of publication - for example taxes, air traffic control charges or duties, surcharges or fees, such as those related to security or fuel, and other costs of the airline or the airport operator."

Optional price supplements must be "communicated in a clear, transparent and unambiguous way at the start of any booking process and their acceptance by the consumer must be on an 'opt-in' basis".

Have you been misled by confusing ticket prices when booking? Do you back the decision by EU transport ministers?

If so, let us know by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other readers in the 50connect forums.

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