“My $250 ticket to Las Vegas turned out to be more like $500, thanks to ancillary revenue fees.”
Most airlines studiously avoid the word surcharge, so they’ve come up with this phrase to describe the add-on fees that resulted in enormous profits ($23 billion!) for the industry last year. Ancillary revenue—from preferred seat selection, ticket changes, pillows and blankets, and other à la carte services—has become the holy grail of airline economics. Hotels, too, have been charging guests for such once-basic services as pool towels, in-room safes, early check-in, and even maid service. But change is on the horizon. 2011 is shaping up to be the battleground year for ancillary revenue as consumer rights advocates call for more transparency and the Department of Transportation hammers out new airline fare disclosure requirements that bring these unexpected fees out into the open.
T+L Tip: Until the DOT obliges airlines to be more transparent about fees, use TripAdvisor’s newly enhanced “fees estimator” function to see what the real cost of a ticket will be.
Contract of Carriage
“After my flight was canceled, I told the gate agent that he had to book me on the next flight, even on another airline, as stated in my ticket’s contract of carriage.”
Think of this as an airline’s official ticket rules. For the most part, airlines write these contracts as they see fit. But that may change as the DOT works on a new rule of its own, one that would require airlines to offer the lowest available fare, refund canceled tickets within 20 days, allow customers to cancel a reservation within 24 hours of purchase at no charge, and deliver mishandled luggage within 24 hours.
T+L Tip: When in doubt, ask an airline rep for a copy of the contract. They are required to give it to you.