Hidden Fees Can Increase Cost of Airline Ticket by 50 percent

Consumer Travel Alliance Investigates


WASHINGTON, July 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The Consumer Travel Alliance, a non-profit organization promoting consumer interests on travel policy issues, today released an analysis showing that hidden fees charged by airlines on popular routes can increase the base cost of an airline ticket by an average of 54 percent for a typical traveler with two checked bags and extra legroom, or by an average of 26 percent for a comparable one-bag traveler.

"Our analysis showed that the hidden fees charged by airlines now rival the cost of the tickets themselves, often without any disclosure to the consumer at the time of purchase," said Charles Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance. "For a family traveling in these tight fiscal times, those fees can be an unexpected shock totaling hundreds of dollars in unanticipated expenses. If airlines want to charge additional fees for their services, they should be required to disclose all of those fees through every ticketing channel, so consumers can compare complete travel costs."

The analysis was conducted by examining the base fares and extra charges for nine major airlines for a typical October flight itinerary on four popular routes - New York-Los Angeles, Boston-Washington, Chicago-Miami, and Washington-Orlando. The analysis included just two of the many common fees now charged by the airlines: checked baggage and extra legroom.

The analysis showed:

Route-Specific Findings:

New York - Los Angeles

Boston - Washington

Chicago - Miami

Washington - Orlando

Citing the results of the study, the Consumer Travel Alliance called on Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation to take swift action to ensure that all ancillary airline fees are fully disclosed to travelers through every distribution channel, so the total cost of air travel can be compared between carriers.

"Booking air travel today can be like shopping with a blindfold on," continued Leocha. "Without price transparency, air travelers have no way to find or compare the real and final cost of their tickets. Airlines stripping out those fees for baggage, extra legroom, and other options are deceiving and confusing passengers about the true cost of air travel. It is imperative that Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation take action to ensure that travelers have access to the complete information they need to make informed decisions about these important travel expenses."

Methodology:

The analysis was conducted in early July 2010 on four popular travel itineraries: New York (JFK) - Los Angeles, Boston (BOS) - Washington (WAS), Chicago (ORD) - Miami (MIA), and Washington (WAS) - Orlando (MCO). Dates used for the analysis were October 21-25, 2010.

The analysis used the lowest publicly available prices for a roundtrip, non-stop ticket on any of the nine major U.S. airlines that offered a non-stop route for the travel itineraries in the study: AirTran, Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, United, US Airways, and Virgin America. (Not every airline offered non-stop service on every route.) Data were gathered via a major online travel website and calculations were based on the base fare offered by the airline, not including additional taxes and airport fees.

Information on ancillary fees was gathered via the airline websites, SmarterTravel.com, and individual traveler or media accounts when the airlines did not make the information publicly available. Only ancillary fees associated with checked baggage and additional legroom were included in the analysis. Not all airlines currently offer additional legroom options.

Other ancillary fees currently offered by the airlines, including seat reservations, pillows/blankets, drinks, unaccompanied minors, lounge access, pets, priority boarding, upgrades, and additional loyalty program miles, were not included in the analysis.

About the Consumer Travel Alliance

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