You may have seen some of my rants here or in the print edition of T+L about the outrageous fees and surcharges the airlines tack onto their base airfares. The airline industry says the surcharges allow consumers to pick and choose the additional services they want rather than forcing them to pay for perks they don't need. I say baloney. They're doing it out of greed. The base airfares they advertise are deceptively low, and can increase by 30 percent or more when you tack on all the extras, like fees for carry-on baggage, checked baggage, telephone reservations, select seat assignments, meals, et al ad nauseam. What's worse, it's often difficult to find out about these charges until a consumer pays for the tickets or, in some cases, until he arrives at the airport.
Now some big guns are marshaling their cumulative power to challenge the airlines on these hidden fees by creating a new website called madashellabouthiddenfees.com.
Underwritten by the American Society of Travel Agents, the Business Travel Coalition, and the Consumer Travel Alliance, the website seeks to get travelers to sign their petition against hidden fees and to contribute their personal tales of surcharge woe, all of which will be sent to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, whose department is currently considering new rules that would require airlines to list all their fees in a more visible manner in advertising and on websites, including third party sites like Expedia and Travelocity.
I'm all in favor of making a stink about hidden fees. But I was disappointed that the three agencies behind madashellabouthiddenfees.com didn't come out against "unbundled" pricing altogether. I and many others think most of these fees should be part of the listed airfare. Instead, the groups behind the new website say surcharges are here to stay; they just want them made clearer. Maybe they should have named the website madasheckabouthiddenfees.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.