With smiling faces and positive press releases, the airlines have been adding fees to tickets instead of raising prices. While their rationale that this pricing structure allows passengers to purchase only what they wanted, the benefit to the airlines has been clear: it obscures the total price of the trip and makes online comparisons difficult. Better fare calculators were an obviously business opportunity waiting to happen.
WJS.com's regular column The Middle Seat discussed the new offerings in its 3/10/09 article “Airfare Quotes that lay Bare Hidden Fees”
“Travel companies say that by the end of this year, consumers will be able to comparison shop for airfares that for the first time will include the fees airlines have been tacking on to advertised fares only after you hit the "buy" button. Already TripAdvisor.com and FlyingFees.com offer elementary tools for calculating fees, and advanced technology that can fold fees into fare quotes at travel agencies, online vendors and airline Web sites is likely to hit the market later this year.”
“For now, more extensive fee listings can be found at FlyingFees.com, a homemade site launched by a freelance Web designer, Matt Henterly, who updates it once or twice a month with help from his girlfriend…..The site is not connected to an airline booking engine, so you have to find ticket prices on your own. It does have features that show you the five cheapest airlines for different fees you may encounter. Sending an unaccompanied minor, for example, is free at Southwest Airlines but costs an extra $39 at AirTran Airways, $75 at Continental, JetBlue and Alaska, and $100 at Delta, American, United and US Airways.”
The large travel sites are not complete solutions to the problem of calculating total costs since they include only some of the optional fees. But these are a good start and once the code to calculate extra fees is in place, it will much easier to add new fees such as Irish discounter Ryanair’s suggested fee to use the restrooms on board. Hmm, is using the restroom really an optional activity for international travelers…….