/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Extra flight charges days before my holiday? I don’t think so

With just fifteen days before my flight to Canada, which was booked nine months ago, my airline tells me I have to pay an extra £60 for new baggage charges. Is it fair that extras are requested at such a late stage?

The cold and snowy, prairie lands of Manitoba don’t make it into many advertising campaigns for Canada.

Bereft of majestic mountains, glaciers or the swish glass offices of the bigger cities, its capital, Winnipeg, doesn’t receive international European flights. At least it doesn’t in the depths of winter, when the temperature could easily dip below 50 degrees with the wind chill. But, to me, this is ‘home’ and where I am heading for the holidays.

My choice of airline is already limited, but since North American carriers also score poorly in our surveys, my choice is further hampered. Most of these airlines have experienced dire financial results in recent years, and I’m afraid the customer satisfaction scores rather reflect this.

Late baggage charges

But back to my dilemma. Yesterday, I received a phone call from my travel agent to tell me that, because we’ve got a two-day stopover in Chicago on the way home, United Airline’s new baggage charges will come into effect.

I will now have to pay $25USD per bag for my flight between Canada and the US (they won’t charge on the way there as we’re simply transferring through). With four of us travelling, this is expensive. And, dare I say, that with just two weeks to go before I fly, this borders on extortion.

Who knows what decisions I would have made about my journey had I known nine months ago that I would have been hit by this extra charge. Introducing this at such a late stage means I’m left feeling cheated.

Are late charges legal?

Can airlines get away with this? Their contract terms may allow for such changes to be made, but it’s worth asking whether it’s fair to alter them two weeks before departure, especially if the price increase is significant.

In my case, the airline would likely argue that the extra cost of baggage is not significant compared to the price of the flights. They could also give me the right to cancel and get a refund. However, at this late stage, I will argue otherwise.

In particular, do I have the ability to genuinely exit the contract if there are no other flights available over the Christmas period? And what if the flights left over are considerably more expensive than the price I paid?

I want that £60 for Christmas presents, I don’t want to give it to United Airlines. The Which? Legal Service lawyers tell me it’s worth a fight – I might just give it a go.

Have you been hit by extra charges within days of travelling? Do you have any advice for me?

Comments
Guest
Chris and Donna says:
29 December 2011

Booked a flight with Monarch through Expedia.com, paid for the holiday and the flights feeling we had a good new year deal, was advised by Expedia to book in online prior to the flights to avoid further charges at the airport. Then noticed it cant be done prior to 18 days before the flight and that Monarch are charging £15.99 per hold bag perflight, so this added £64 to the cost of the flight! They do not make this clear when the flight is first purchased and no doubt will argue that instead of the usual 15kg hold luggage you get 20kg but what if you dont want the extra 5kg and it is unlikely you will go on a 2 week holiday with 10kg take on luggage only? These prices and catches need to be a lot clearer and the airlines stop creating the impression of being deliberately evasive in actual costs.