Baggage and reservation-change fees have helped major air carriers post their highest profit margins in three years, according to the International Air Transport Association. Business Travel Coalition Chairman Kevin Mitchell is leading a campaign to mandate disclosure of unexpected fees for things such as checking bags, priority seating, requesting a seat assignment or getting extra legroom.
"About 50 percent of travelers book their airfare at the airlines' Websites, where this information is also a problem, currently. The other 50 percent book through, you know, Travelocity and Priceline, and that group of outlets—they don't have this information in any way, shape or form. So when a consumer goes to Travelocity, he or she is only going to get the base fare, not all these other fees. That's how these surprises occur at the airports."
Mitchell says airlines should be required to disclose all of their fees in advance on every Website selling airline tickets. He says travelers should have the complete cost before making a purchasing decision, allowing the ability to comparison shop among airlines.
"A lot of people don't like the fees as a matter of principle. Our stand is the fees are here to stay. They can represent a sustainable and profitable revenue stream for the carriers, but not at the expense of, you know, consumers can no longer camparison shop. Travel agencies have half the fare information to provide their customers. I took a flight, you know, Boston to San Francisco back in July, and when I arrived at the airport there was a $225 in extra baggage fees. And there was absolutely no mention of these fees anywhere along the way."
The Department of Transportation's public comment period ends tomorrow. The DOT proposed that airlines be required to display fees prominently on their Websites, but also is considering extending that requirement to travel sites.