/ Money, Travel & Leisure

EU wants to ground airlines’ excessive surcharges

A grounded aeroplane

The European Consumers’ Organisation (BEUC) is campaigning to have ‘rip off’ surcharges banned across Europe. So it’s over to Monique Goyens, director general at BEUC, who tells us how they’re getting on.

We’ve all been there: you’re finalising flights online for that weekend away in Rome, maybe the family holiday to France, perhaps a study trip to Edinburgh or a sports weekend in Dublin.

Delighted with the advertised flight price, you come to the payment screen. That’s when you get a nasty shock. To use your credit or debit card will cost you £9 (or €11) per person per leg of the trip. After doing the maths for a family of four, that’s breakfast in the hotel cancelled. Maybe the holiday itself is no longer affordable.

End excessive surcharges in Europe

All across Europe, the insidious practice of applying excessive charges when you pay by card has taken off as high as the planes.

But thanks to Which? and its supporters, the government finally banned companies from applying excessive surcharges in the UK from 6 April this year. Following Which?’s surcharges campaign, we at BEUC are advancing towards eradicating these surcharges across Europe.

At BEUC, we ultimately want to see all surcharging gone. But airlines are the worst culprits, so we’re campaigning for excessive surcharges to be banned for all airlines operating from all EU countries and for all consumers across Europe. It is unconscionable that airlines commonly charge between €6 and up to €14 to pay with a credit or debit card when booking flights.

How BEUC is getting started

To stop these practices, we have written to the Association of European Airlines and the European Low Fares Airline Association asking them to examine and change their ways. We hope to get rid of one of the real consumer headaches for all of Europe’s 500 million consumers.

Airlines should take it upon themselves to include all payment means costs in the headline price, if any; offer a choice of inexpensive and widely used payment services and where payment fees are allowed under national laws, limit them.

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC. All opinions expressed here are Monique’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


We also need EU-wide legislation to include within headline fares any additional charges paid by the majority of passengers on a particular route, e.g. checked-in baggage and the latest trend – cabin baggage. The only reason the airlines started adding additional charges through drip pricing was to legitimise a misleading indication of price.

Glynis says:
24 April 2013

Ryanair are now adding an addition 20 quid instead of adding the punitive credit card charge thereby making even more money.

Where do you get this information from? Ryanair’s fees page at http://www.ryanair.com/en/terms-and-conditions#regulations-tableoffees doesn’t mention this.

Sophie Gilbert says:
25 April 2013

Ryanair is like an ever evolving bacterium or virus. It will always find a way.

Did Ryanair go ahead with plans for charging for using the on board toilet?

Most of the additional charges we now pay for flights originated with Ryanair. Other airlines soon followed as they were losing passengers to the budget airlines. When going to Paris, I prefer to travel by train as it is still a civilised way of travel compared to budget airline travel.

No, the suggestion of charging to use the loo is just a concept that Ryanair and the media sometimes invent. Ryanair often discusses the idea on the premise that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. The idea would never take off in practice because various laws would prevent it.

I think Ryanair make certain proposals public just to see the reaction they get from the public. They are not alone in doing this, even the Government do this.

Banning excessive surcharges is open to interpretation and would still be abused.

Why can’t the powers-that-be order that the price you see is the price you pay and that all surcharges must be included in that price.

The should price should include handling charges, paying by credit cards, drinks on short trips, meals on long trips and a set allowed luggage allowance.

For the first time ever, I had a problem with weight allowance on Virgin (2 kilos over), so excess luggage payments should be easier.

3 February 2014

At a Preliminary hearing to discover the facts before Judge Collins at the Portsmouth Courts of Justice on 16.01.2014, the Judge found that the UK’s Largest Regional and troubled Airline FLYBE who advertise widely that they do-not charge their customers for the use of Debit Cards when used for booking their on-line flights, had in fact been CHARGING FEES to the claimant for booking flights that were made using various DEBIT CARDS and as a result there could be a prima facia case for MISREPRESENTATION resulting in an award of damages. In his summing-up he said that although the amounts were small by their very nature, it was in the public interest for the claimants action to proceed against FLYBE to a full hearing.

There will now be a full trial at the Courts of Justice on the 3rd April 2014 to consider Witness Statements, make Judgement and access Damages.

Maria Sanz Rosello says:
8 December 2014

Dear Sirs,

I understand that the OFT’s investigation into Airline payment surcharges – CRE-E/27017 in 2011/12 following a complaint by Which Magazine, resulted in Flybe Group plc giving an undertaking not to charge for Debit Card use.

In order to be able to book flights with this company, who have a monopoly over certain routes flying from regional airports, l am still having to pay a charge of £5.00 or €7,00 each time l use my UK Santander Bank DEBIT CARD to pay for their flights on-line.

I have not had the same problem when booking similar flights on-line using other airlines including EasyJet or Ryanair.

Complaints to Flybe’s Customer Services about the same go un-answered.

In addition to the above Flybe on the same booking page have the audacity to state that they DO-NOT charge for Debt Card use and quote next to this the base price before their charges are applied when clicking on the book button? (Please see attached “Screen Shots” taken on a recent booking)

This kind of misrepresentation is bad for consumer confidence and impedes effective competition.

Can l therefore ask on behalf of the Consumer, that “SOMEONE” stops this type of abuse and that Flybe are asked to rectify this breach of their undertaking and UK legislation?

Looking forward to someones help please?

Kind regards,

Maria Sanz Rosello.