An article by Hugo Martin in the Los Angeles Times yesterday reveals still more bad PR and just bad business for airlines. At a time when any industry can well afford negative news, over $1.5 billion in nickel – dime baggage charges and reservation fees makes America’s biggest air carriers seem anything but transparent.
According to Martin, the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics cited fees collected in quarter two at more than an 8 percent jump when compared to the previous quarter. Led by Delta Air Lines’ $430 million in fees, all the airlines seem to share in part of the “guilt” for putting the pinch on customers. Between news of OTA’s squeezing service providers and customers with hidden or escalated charges, even sometimes illegal ones, and an economic outlook which is at best dismal, logic has to .
The stats came to light as carriers released their latest earnings figures. Higher airfares plus the additional charges and fees have consumer groups hot under the collar, as well as the U.S. Transportation Department ready to impose new regulations which, of course, the airlines say will be an added burden.
Just recently Orbitz was fined $60,000 by the DOT, which made big news. Ironically, American Airlines, Delta, and some of the other big carriers were also fined, but the levies made no major headlines we know of. This DOT document – DOT-OST-2011-0003 – reveals hundreds of thousands in fines for various entities using online portals, as well as some baggage issues as well.
Reading through all these documents one gets the impression the DOT is making a monumental effort to ride herd on what amounts to a wily bunch of coyotes intent on scraping every dime they can from what should be coveted customers. Of course impressions can be misleading too, DOT rules for websites can be intricate. Just as an example, here is an abstract from US Airways’ issues:
“Consent Order 2011-6-2 concerns Internet advertisements by US Airways, Inc., (US Airways) that violate the advertising requirements specified in 14 CFR Part 399, as well as 49 U.S.C. § 41712, which prohibits unfair and deceptive practices. This order directs US Airways to cease and desist from future violations of Part 399, and section 41712 and assesses the carrier a compromise civil penalty of $45,000.”
If credibility means anything at all the travel business is going to have to do some shape shifting pretty soon. Regardless of whether air carriers intentionally hide fees or not, the end result, especially after so many cases of the sort, is a consumer simply desperate for anyone who offers a square deal. Don’t you feel, in your circle, that something has to give?
Let us know your thoughts, your experiences, we’ll print em.
Featured image courtesy – © kalafoto – Fotolia.com