Do you feel duped by flight fares that bare no resemblance to the final cost? Wouldn’t it be better if all those ‘extras’ were included from the get go? Well, our mistrust has forced some airlines to change tack.
Monarch Airlines has announced that by the end of the year they, like British Airways and easyJet, will be moving towards advertising prices with taxes, fees and charges already included.
The Managing Director of Monarch, Tim Jeans, has been quoted as saying that ‘people just don’t trust £5 fares any more, they are now sufficiently well-travelled to know you can’t pay that to travel 1,000 miles on a £40 million aircraft.’
Over the past few years, the travel industry has been stripping away charges from the actual cost of the flight ticket and adding them as extras in the spirit of ‘consumer choice’.
At the end of 2008, we asked 1641 Which? members who had flown in the previous 12 months to think about buying the same ticket again. When we asked them what they’d want included in the upfront ticket price, 92% said the taxes, fees and charges. A further 77% said that they’d want any fuel supplements to also be included.
Flight tickets fuel game of confusion
Travel companies are particularly renowned for ‘dripping’ extra costs into the final price at different stages of the booking. They then rely on the fact that the further we get, the more likely we are to finish booking, regardless of how annoying the process is.
For many of us, by the time we realise that the final cost bears no resemblance to the initial price, we think it’s too late to start the booking process all over again with another company.
Fuelled by consumer annoyance, the Office of Fair Trading has been studying online pricing recently with an aim of coming up with some good practice guidelines for traders. But it’ll be a long time before their recommendations become anything but voluntary.
In the meantime, we need to get savvier and let ourselves cancel a booking when we start to feel cheated and reward the companies that are honest with us from the start. Sure, choice is good, but only when the choices we’re given are genuine and transparent.
How much should we pay for a holiday?
A second point that Jeans’ comments bring up is perhaps a more interesting one. Do people really know how much a holiday or flight is worth? When the tour operator Goldtrail went bust over the summer, many in the industry exclaimed that consumers should have known that any company selling holidays to Turkey for £200 was bound to fail.
Yes, industry folk and the well-travelled may have a better idea about how much a holiday costs, but most of us aren’t frequent flyers and so a £200 Turkey package may seem like a safe bet. Plus, when we book a flight, our focus is on the cost to us, not the cost to the company.
How are we to know what price will keep a company afloat, when everyone pays a different price anyway? The answer, perhaps, is that we’ll probably never know. The only thing we can do is to insure ourselves against the risks of a company charging too little.