Hidden airline fees may face regulatory action

Wednesday 13th September 2023 07:10 EDT

The government plans to enhance online shopping transparency by potentially regulating hidden airline fees. A public consultation aims to curb companies from adding extra charges at checkout. 

Airlines UK argues they already offer great value. Recent government research reveals this practice is common across various industries, costing consumers £1.6bn annually. The Department for Business and Trade will launch the six-week consultation on Monday. Airlines now offer numerous add-ons during booking, such as speedy boarding, baggage check, and seat selection, often with additional costs.

The government has identified "drip pricing," where the checkout price exceeds the original advertised cost due to necessary but undisclosed fees, as a problem across various industries, including transportation (73% of providers), entertainment (54% of providers), and hospitality (56% of providers).

In addition to addressing hidden fees, new consultations launched on Monday also focus on combating fake reviews and clarifying confusing product labels. 

While the consultation works on substituting some rules, travel consultant Vas Jesani from Crystal Blue Travels feels that airlines should take ethical considerations like maintaining transparency and a clear line of communication when it comes to disclosing and adding last-minute charges to flight bookings. 

She said that, “Airlines must maintain transparency by openly disclosing all potential charges, ensuring they are reasonable and not excessively high. All fees should be clearly presented during the booking process to prevent unexpected costs and any alterations to fee structures should be communicated to customers in a timely and straightforward manner.”

Vas said that the commuters, on their part, can avoid exorbitant charges by paying attention to small details. For example, the most common last-minute charges that travellers may encounter when booking flights is that of overweight or extra bags. 

“One of the biggest tips is not exceeding your weight allowance, as you will get penalised heavily. If you know you are carrying extra luggage, pay before you get to the airport. This will be cheaper than at the airport”, she said. Apart from extra luggage, seat selection, meal preference and cancellations can bear some last-minute charges.

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