Canadian airlines to rake in 3/4 of a BILLION dollars in extra fees this year...
Yikes and double yikes.
A story in the Montreal Gazette today says four Canadian airlines this year are due to bring in $737 million from bag fees and other "ancillary" services. And that doesn't include Porter, which means the figure could be a good deal higher.
The U.S.-based groups Amadeus North America and IdeaWorks say the 2011 projections are up a very solid 43.8 per cent — or $9.9 billion — from 2010 projections made the same time last year, the Gazette reported. Around the world, the companies suggest the total fees collected by some 200 airlines will be, wait for it, $32.5 billion.
That's a lot of $25 bag fees and purchase your extra-legroom fees and buy-your-soggy-sandwich-in-advance fees.
David Jeanes of Transport Action Canada, an Ottawa-based travel advocacy group, told the Sun that extra fees are a "constant source of alarm" and that bag fees make up a "significant portion of consumer dissatisfaction," which is hardly surprising.
"The increasing number of airline-related fees and the declining level of service — or the number of things you are actually entitled to with your basic fare — is concerning people. Certainly, a lot of passengers are concerned about the cost of taking multiple bags. It's also somewhat unfair because it's a price per bag, rather than price per weight and for older people . . . who might be travelling with smaller bags so they can handle them.
"That's a concern," he said.
Amadeus describes ancillary fees as "any revenue beyond the sale of the airline ticket that is generated by sales to passengers or as part of the travel experience." In addition to fees tacked onto base fares for bags and other services, the totals also included advertising revenue, sales from frequent-flyer programs and other services by the airlines.
Of course, airline officials defend the fees.
"Ancillary fees are commonly used throughout the industry worldwide and are one way airlines generate revenue and remain competitive," Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email to Postmedia News. "Most of these fees — such as seat selection, meals or lounge access — are discretionary, meaning the traveller can choose to pay them or not and by being selective can save on their overall cost of travel.
"At the same time, many customers like these options to enhance their travel experience."
Many customers like these options? Sure, we do. But not at extra cost.
The real bugaboo with many folks is the bag fee. It's one thing to charge me $25 to take my golf bags to Myrtle Beach. I mean, anyone who takes a golf trip to Myrtle Beach can probably afford $25. But Jeanes makes a very valid point about seniors not wanting to carry - or being able to carry - large bags. And what about folks heading to a cold-weather destination? It's easy to pack small for the Dominican Republic or Cuba; not so easy if you're headed to Calgary in January.
Anyway, it's pretty obvious the big fees are here to stay. And that nobody's going to do anything about it. The feds keep talking about cracking down on misleading ads that don't include fuel surcharges and such, but they never do it.
As much as bag fees are annoying, they're mostly fairly small potatoes. The ads that talk about one-way fares and don't include fuel surcharges are the ones that burn my derriere. I've seen ads that claim a trip to Paris would cost $300 or something. By the time you add in the return ticket and fees, the cost often rises well over $1,000.
It'd be like going to Tim Hortons in the morning and seeing $1.35 for a medium coffee on the board, then getting nicked another dollar for a "cup restocking fee," 50 cents for "roll up the rim printing fee" and 35 cent "coconut timbit toasting fee."
Dang. I hope I haven't given them any ideas....