"Mad as hell about hidden fees" a great idea...Air Transat says "buy now?"
Got an email the other day about how the American Society of Travel Agents, Consumer Travel Alliance and Business Travel Coalition have launched an initiative "to ensure that consumers, travel agents and corporate travel managers have a voice at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) this fall regarding hidden airline fees."
The group says personal stories posted by visitors about being surprised at the airport by fees offer compelling evidence that DOT protections from hidden-fee abuse are imperative. They're urging folks to check out their website, http://madashellabouthiddenfees.com
The mad as hell website has lots of horror stories
about people being tagged when they're taking books to school kids in
Africa and such. A woman from New Jersey wrote that she booked a $200
ticket for her daughter to fly to school, but had to pay another $160 on
top of that because she had three bags.
"What a rip-off! I'm mad as hell," she wrote.
"DOT will be accepting public comments until September 23 on a sweeping set of passenger protections," the consumer groups said in a press release. "We believe the most pressing issue facing airline customers is to have full disclosure of airline fees before a purchase decision is made and in a format that enables apples-to-apples comparison-shopping among airlines."I couldn't agree more. I'm also surprised nobody has thought of it up here in Canada. Or, if they have, they certainly are keeping it a secret.
I think it's terribly misleading to quote airfares simply based on one-way tickets, and not add in taxes and fees that can add hundreds of dollars. It's not uncommon to find an ad suggesting it costs $250 to fly to Paris, for example, but then you add in the return trip and the hidden fees for gasoline and what have you and it's suddenly $700 or more; almost triple the $250 listed.
Here's a wild one. Today the airtransat website, www.airtransat.ca, lists a flight to Cancun from Toronto for $19. But then there are taxes and fees adding to $282.66. It's a reasonable return fare for September at $301, but the taxes/fees are 15 times the cost of the ticket, and how crazy is that?
Then there are the fees at the airport. A buddy of mine in San Francisco yesterday got dinged $25 for a second bag for his Air Canada flight to Toronto. I must have missed the policy announcement, as I thought Air Canada wasn't charging for second bags on flights within North America. But a check of their website today shows that, indeed, the two free bags policy is only for flights within Canada. If you go to the U.S., it's only one free bag. Which certainly makes it hard for guys on a golf trip like we were. Sigh.
Speaking of Air Canada, our plane last night got in two hours late and then we "docked" at about the furthest possible point from customs and had a long, long walk to the terminal. But we passed a bunch of empty gates and then a bunch of United Airlines planes.
Why would United planes get the spots closest to the main terminal and customs when Air Canada is the main flier at Pearson? And why would they use a gate that's so far away when the plane could easily go into a more convenient gate? Who decided these things, anyway? It's all a huge mystery to me.
On the other hand, I'll give Air Canada credit for a nice crew on my flight from San Francisco. I asked for coffee with cream, but the cream they had brought on board had gone bad. Not their fault. But the flight attendant came back to me later and said she found some cream that was left over from an earlier trip that day, thus allowing me to have my coffee the way the good lord intended. Thanks.BUY NOW TO SAVE ON TRANSAT?
Interesting report today that says Transat is getting rid of its usual policy of providing last-minute bargains and instead will try to induce early sales with lower-priced packages that will go up in cost as trips get closer.
Brent Jang in the Globe and Mail quoted Transit chairman/CEO Jean-Marc Eustache as saying that they "used to start very high - the prices - and after everybody cut their prices, we were putting our price down."
Eustache said this year "we'll start aggressively with a strategy of having low prices at the beginning."
If that's the case, it might be good to lock in now for that winter getaway. I don't like the fees/taxes part, but $301 for a return trip Toronto-Cancun strikes me as pretty reasonable. They were listing a flight from Toronto to Paris and back in October for $294, plus $362.91 in fees and taxes (there we go again) for a total of $656.91. Not bad.It was an interesting comment from Eustache, too, telling Jang that Transat used to start their prices "very high." I'm no public relations expert, but I suspect that's not quite the way he wanted to put it.