The nonprofit Consumer Travel Alliance is urging federal officials to force airlines to be more transparent about their fees wherever they sell airline tickets. The action comes on the heels of budget carrier Spirit Airline‘s recent announcement that come November it would increase baggage fees. Among the new prices: a $100 charge for a carry-on bag if you check it at the gate.
The alliance called Spirit’s fee frenzy “a wake-up call” for the Department of Transportation. “When the fee for a carry-on bag can be more than three times the cost of airfare itself, advertising only the airfare is deceptive and misleading to the flying public,” a statement from the organization said.
It argued that consumers don’t see a true picture of the price of their tickets because fees aren’t always disclosed to those who buy tickets through travel agents and online. Typically airlines post the cost of bag and other fees on their websites, but they aren’t necessarily factored into the ticket price when a reservation is made.
So far, Spirit is alone in charging $100 for a carry-on bag, but the consumer group’s criticism of fee disclosure wasn’t limited to that carrier. Here are two other examples it pointed to:
--"An American Airlines $534 transcontinental flight from LAX to Dulles can cost 22 percent more when two pieces of luggage are added to the airfare.”
--"A US Airways flight from Washington Reagan to Boston can be purchased with an airfare of between $140-$170 on most dates with an advanced purchase. Baggage charges for two checked bags will cost $120 round-trip, adding 70 to 85 percent to the cost of travel.”
Spirit, in its defense, repeatedly has said the itemized fees it offers keeps airfare prices low and consumers paying only for what they need.
But is there really a choice when you have carry-on bag fees and checked bag fees?