When I was in New Zealand, I needed to catch an earlier flight home due to an emergency. To change my flight I had to pay an extra £350, even though the plane was half empty. Was this charge really fair?
My colleague found himself in a similar situation recently. He was stunned to find that changing the dates of his flights would cost him £280, when he could book entirely new flights for just £220. When he asked the customer service rep why he should bother amending the booking, the rep agreed that he’d be better off booking new flights. To me, that’s madness.
Another colleague found that his girlfriend could no longer travel on the flights she’d booked. He looked into changing the name on the flight so one of his friends could go instead, and was told the fee to change the name would be £110 – when the flights originally cost just £70.
You’ll pay for your mistakes
How can an airline justify charging £110 for the simple task of changing a name on a booking system? When our Amanda Diamond was in the same situation, she was told by Ryanair that the fee exists to ‘prevent anyone from buying up large numbers of the cheapest tickets, changing the names and then selling them on for profit’. While that sounds fair, why punish consumers for genuine, honest mistakes?
This got me thinking about admin changes more generally. Shouldn’t charges reflect the cost to the business that’s charging them? Admin fees and charges levied by airlines and other companies shouldn’t be used as a way to make money from their unsuspecting customers.
As a result of Which?’s surcharges campaign, the government has promised to implement a ban of all excessive card surcharges by the end of 2012. But unfortunately, this won’t cover excessive fees and charges that don’t relate to card payments (such as the admin fee to change ticket dates, for example).
Take a gamble
The airlines do mention these fees in their T&Cs when you book the tickets, but you’re essentially taking a gamble on the hope that you won’t need to change your tickets later. Plus, is hiding this in the small print good enough?
Have you ever been stung by charges due to changes in your plans, or because of an honest mistake? Do you ever pay more for flexible tickets to avoid these situations?