Hidden fees: theft in plain sight?

With the summer travel season a couple of weeks away the menace of hidden fees gets more attention in the press leading to the somewhat misleading notion that the add-ons are merely a summer practice.  Instead, less light is shone on the nebulous extractions as business folks, who do the bulk of the traveling the rest of the year are less inclined to pay heed and object to them. An example of that is this booking with Hertz US for a rental in Italy where the local office added a mysterious "local"  charge of €100 and doubled the charge for a child's seat besides slapping on a charge for an additional driver without disclosing it.

Fees of the foregoing kind recently prompted a UK based car rental specialist, 121carhire.com to put out a press release entitled "How to Avoid Hidden Car Hire Costs this Summer". The company notes that "on arrival to pick up the vehicle many holidaymakers are finding that
the price wasn't all inclusive and are hit with hidden charges, some
compulsory and some not. In a number of cases, these charges have been
found to double the original quoted cost. The latter was the case mentioned above with Hertz Italia.

Airlines, however, have made hay out of the now fully disclosed baggage fees. USA Today's recent report on figures provided by the US Dept of Transportation  shows U.S. airlines earned $3.5 billion in fees for checked luggage.  They earned a further $2.6 billion on another item that they have taken to "disclosing":  fees charged for changing a reservation.

While hidden fees remain a problem for car renters hotels have gone the other way. Other than a few "resorts" most have not only taken to abandoning the practice but also given up on "ancillary" revenue with some upscale hotels offering free WiFi and local calls. One area, rightly in the eyes of all operators, that has seen a tightening of standards is the cancellation fee with some vacation resorts requiring a full cancellation fee of a day's charge as many as 3+ days in advance of arrival.  

Add-ons would elicit far less customer opprobrium if fully disclosed. No travel provider is as comprehensive about breaking out and publicizing its list of ever-expanding add-ons as Ryan Air. As last week's article lauding Ryan Air's boss Michael O'Leary  in the Irish Independent points out no one forces passengers to fly his airline. That is particularly true as they have more than one choice. The latter point is made clear in a recent survey put out by JD Power where airline satisfaction levels are on the rise barring gripes stemming from baggage fees which are disclosed in the booking process .

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

One thought on “Hidden fees: theft in plain sight?”

  1. While these fees have helped many U.S. carriers return to profitability, airlines’ continued refusal to share core fee information with online travel sites and travel agents (who account for 50% of all air travel sold and 95% of corporate business travel) is directly harming millions of consumers and companies who have been forced to pay hidden or very poorly disclosed airline fees.
    Consumers deserve to have all of the information they need to make informed choices and purchases. When comparison shopping for the best price, they deserve to know, up front, the full cost (fares, fees and taxes) of their air travel.
    Airline passengers are standing together to encourage the U.S. DOT to adopt a new rule this year requiring airlines to share their fee information with travel sites and travel agents.
    More information on the campaign can be found here: http://www.passengerspeaking.com/

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