/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Sky’s the limit when it comes to flight card fees

Have you been caught out with charges for using your credit or debit card when booking flights? Not only is this an irritating practice, it’s a ‘rip-off’ when you consider how little it costs the airlines to process.

Like lots of people, I’ve found that I see a cheap flight and go through the booking process, only to be told at the end to pay a huge fee for using whatever card I have in my wallet.

Which? is going to make a super complaint about the amount of charges we face when trying to pay for things on our cards. I think this is a really irritating practice. But actually it’s much more than that – it’s a rip-off as the charges we’re asked to pay seem to bear no resemblance to the costs the airlines or retailers actually incur.

These charges are popping up everywhere, from buying tickets to using estate agents, cinemas and even the DVLA.

But low-cost airlines are among the worst offenders, with some charging a fee per passenger and per leg of the journey, in spite of the fact that they only have to process one transaction.

Low-cost airlines among the worst offenders

If I took my family – four of us – on a return flight with Ryanair, I’d be charged £40 to pay by card. If I flew with Flybe it would be £36 and £5.50 by Easyjet.

The cost to the airline? Around 20p to process a debit card payment and no more than 2% of the transaction value for a credit card.

Not only are the charges different between airlines, but you’re only told about them at the end of the booking process so it’s really hard to work out which airline is actually the cheapest when you’re shopping around.

Pennies – not pounds – to process

Our super complaint will highlight these problems and ask the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate. There are three main things we want, which would sort this problem out.

First we want retailers to tell us upfront if they have surcharges – and how much they are.

Second, we want fair credit card charges – the costs to the consumer should be the same as the cost to the retailer.

Finally, as the 20p cost to the retailer is so low when using a debit card, we think they should absorb the cost directly and not pass it on.

We need to show the OFT that consumers are suffering as a result, which is where you come in. You can help our campaign by pledging your support.

What’s the most you’ve paid to use your card for a flight booking? Do you agree with what we want or can you think of other ways to make card surcharges fairer?

Freddie says:
26 April 2011

I booked a holiday with Cottages4you and was told when paying the deposit that there would be a £2 surcharge for paying by credit card. I was asked if the final payment could be taken when due, from the credit card. I agreed assuming that there would be no additional surcharge. The booking confirmation dated 07 Feb showed the £2 surcharge and the outstanding balance with no extra surcharge. A second booking confirmation dated 02 March, after a change in our booking requirements, also showed only the £2 surcharge. When I checked my credit card account after the payment date I found I had been charged an additional £15.72. I complained – was told that the surcharge on credit card payments was 2%. I strongly objected and received a £15.72 “Goodwill” refund.

Paul says:
29 April 2011

I recently purchased three return tickets from Birmingham to Belfast with Flybe. I noted a Debit/Credit Charge surcharge but did not realise this would be added per person and per leg of the journey. This was a total of £27. I have since booked one return ticket costing over £2000 with BA, cost £4.50. If these airlines wish to add a transcation cost then how can it be calculated on the number of passengers and legs of the journey! In terms of payment processing there is one transaction, this is a misrepresentation and clearly as shown above some airlines are simply stretching the rules, it may not be unlawful but it is unethical. Given the savings these airlines make in terms of their costs (we book the tickets online, check in online and pay on line) it is questionable as to whether they shgould pass on the transaction cost in any case as they have stripped out all of their main costs in any case. This practice needs regulation, if banks are allowed to withdraw cheques, and increasingly we have to carry out transactions using cards what protection is their against other businesses doing the same thing? We now have the ludicrous situation where we are being charged a fee to spend our own money buying goods and services.

Susievintage says:
10 May 2011

I frequently fly to the Channel Islands with local airline Aurigny. I recently booked a return flight from Stansted to Jersey. Because of Aurigny’s peculiar timetable, my outward journey had to go via Guernsey. I was therefore charged three debit card fees of £2 each – one for each leg of the journey – even though I did not actually want to break my outward journey in Guernsey. Needless to say, despite the three charges to me, the whole fare appeared only once on my bank statement – so Aurigny processed only one payment, not three.

I contacted the airline, and received this verbose explanation:

“If you have to travel on days that we don’t have direct services our booking system will “build” connecting flights via Guernsey, this does result in double debit/credit card charges but the fares take this into account. We recognise this problem and to nullify it the “add on” for a Guernsey-Jersey sector following a Stansted to Jersey one is around £12-£20 (there are some exceptions when the interisland flights are very busy), plus the £2/£4 should you be paying by debit/credit card. These amounts are significantly lower than the cost of buying the Guernsey Jersey sector on a “stand alone” basis. I hope you will agree that we have addressed the issue of the double card charge, albeit in a way lacking elegance. We are working on a system development to overcome this problem and just apply a single card charge for the A to C via B journey, but it won’t actually change the cost, just the way it is presented. If you book sectors that are operated on the same aircraft (single flight number) only a single card charge is applied.”

It’s not my fault that they change the flight number when the plane in on the ground in Guernsey (we sit there – we don’t change planes), but apparently I have to pay for it!

Stuart Claughton says:
28 May 2011

Recently booked two return flignts( Leeds/Bradford to Barcelona) with Jet2.
Proudly promoted at £183.96 (inclusive of tax) no mention of extras.
After completing booking,was charged additional £7.10 for card fee and £6.86 booking fee and oh yes, if you would like to sit together, £11.96 to make sure.
Total £ 209.88

utscot says:
30 May 2011

My 70 year old cousin and I had just had the “royal” treatment from Ryanair….extra charges, cancelled flight and a refund well below what we paid out with no explanation and an email telling us to not reply but to send a fax with our complaint issue. I DO NOT understand why this company still continues in business. There must be a lot of unhappy customers who will not use their so called service any more….what in the world can we do as consumers to show them who is paying for their airline???? It sounds to me that there needs to be more monitoring done by a “watchdog” group which can enforce fines on companies who really do lie in their advertised prices. Yes, lie, omission of information is just as culpable as commission….


E-mail sent to Flybe today regarding card and other charges.
Good afternoon,
Was looking forward to taking the new flights from Inverness to Amsterdam only to find after I looked and started to book the price of the flight(very reasonable) all these other charges started to appear. Now I do know about budget carriers adding a baggage fee which is fair enough but when coming to the card transaction fee of £18 plus the £2 extra for that it just irks a little. It should be made absolutley clear that the flight charge is for getting on the plane only and highlight that other charges could apply for baggage, seat, insurance and card transactions, not when you are quite far into the booking process.
I know that you will come back saying that I could take a Electron card to save some of the charges but I do not want one and an ordinary debit card should suffice but no it incurrs excessive charges too. Strange that one as I don’t get charged when I use my debit card for any other transaction.
I am having serious doubts about flying now for these unreasonable fees which have been highlighted in the press with other flight carriers and hopefully the banks and even the Government will take action to stop these silly fees.
I am not adverse to paying a reasonable price but this is just profiteering on a grand scale and we are advised to pay by credit card as it has insurance with this type of card unlike debit cards.
Looking forward to your reply.


W.S.Becket says:
5 June 2011

If our MP’s and EEC suits had to pay for their own flights, this problem would be resolved in a week.

hansbfld says:
5 June 2011

Would like to share a very positive experience. Just booked tickets for a coffee concert in Oxford. The ticket office accepts credit and debit card payments and charges absolutely zero!