Airlines face a crackdown on sneaky charges amid fears millions of holidaymakers are still being ripped off. Ministers are poised to launch an official investigation into the price of tickets and ‘add on charges’ including booking and baggage fees.
The Department for Transport wants airlines to be more up front about ‘hidden charges’ which it says ‘often fail to become clear until the customer comes to the end of a long booking process’.
One of the main focuses of the probe will be allegations some airlines are deliberately splitting families up unless they pay to reserve seats. The Civil Aviation Authority has already launched a separate investigation into this tactic, which it claims is costing passengers up to £400million a year in fees.
But the intervention from the Government – which oversees the CAA – steps up pressure on the airline industry to make the cost of flying more transparent. One DFT source said the government could even ‘beef up’ the CAA’s powers as a result of this probe.
Currently the CAA can pursue airlines in the courts but it has no statutory powers itself to fine airlines or force them to make changes. Aviation minister Baroness Sugg told the Mail: ‘When passengers book flights, they can sometimes be hit with additional charges over and above the original quoted flight cost.
The DFT puts passengers at the heart of everything we do and we want to ensure people have as much information as possible when making decisions over which flight to book.
‘Through our Aviation Strategy, we will explore ways to improve and enhance the information available, so passengers can make well informed decisions before deciding who to fly with.’
For years budget airlines have been accused of reeling in customers with cheap air fares, only to then impose a raft of extra costs. They could be encouraged to use apps to give passengers a more accurate picture of the total cost of a flight earlier in the booking process.
The government will consult on the plans in the Aviation Strategy later this year, and aims to publish a final report next year. Ryanair is among those that have faced complaints from families about being split up on flights if they have not paid extra to reserve seats.
They have vehemently denied this is a money-spinning tactic. But the aviation watchdog the CAA suspects it may be a deliberate ploy in the industry after finding that on average one in five travellers on airlines are split up. Other charges that will be investigated include booking or ‘admin’ fees.
EasyJet and Ryanair both insisted they had ‘no hidden charges’ and all optional charges and fees were clearly displayed during booking.
Source Credit: Daily Mail