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Hidden Airline Fees Upsetting to Many

Hidden airline fees have been the topic of discussion among many frequent travelers, but recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation has entered into the conversation. KSMU’s Ryan Welch has the story.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is being sent a petition from consumers and travel organizations. They want airlines to be legally required to make all of their flight fee information easily accessible, both online and off.

Kent Boyd, spokesperson for Springfield-Branson National Airport, says that the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the poor economy, and the oil crisis all had significant impacts on the business of flying. He says the United States has fewer flights in the air today than in 1999. Boyd also says that airfare, when adjusted for inflation, is actually cheaper today than it was 20 years ago.

“I think what people don’t realize is that the airlines truly are in a financial pickle. And they’re trying to figure out any way they can to make a dollar just to cover the basic cost of operations. The challenge for the airlines is to figure out how to do that in a way that’s more transparent, that provides better customer service, and just doesn’t make people mad,” Boyd said.

Consumers say they understand airlines need to charge fees; they just want to know the exact fees for all baggage, seating, food, and items like pillows or blankets before buying the airline ticket. The hidden fees are very frustrating to many customers, who are not able to see what they will be charged until they arrive at the airport. Boyd says this is part of the airline’s strategy.

“They think they’re going to make more money if it’s harder to figure out how much it’s going to cost. I think that if they were just upfront and transparent about it, people would have a lot less heartburn with it,” Boyd said.

Linda Overend is a principal manager for The Travel Group in Springfield. She says her agency is constantly trying to keep up with the fees that airlines are charging. She says she thinks the major airlines are simply trying to compete with the prices of smaller ones.

“If they [the bigger airlines] lower their prices, and then they all do these extra fees, they think they’re going to come out ahead,” Overend said.

Overend says some airlines now charge a fee when a customer makes a reservation over the phone. An online monitoring site called “airfarewatchdog.com” also says some airlines charge fees for getting a seat assignment in advance, and cashing in frequent flier miles without several days’ notice.

For KSMU News, I’m Ryan Welch.