Consumers Want Airlines to Come Clean on Fees

The biggest concern for travelers is not the comfort of their plane rides or even the notorious TSA pat down. Consumers want to know how much they are really paying for their travel, according to a recent survey from the Consumer Travel Alliance.

The CTA survey found that the top consumer priority in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, which is making its way through Congress, is to have airlines disclose all fees before booking, so travelers can more easily see and compare prices. This includes baggage, seating and priority boarding fees.

The survey was conducted among more than 500 frequent travelers online, and found that 58% of respondents said that forcing airlines to reveal these fees should be the number one consumer priority in the bill. Second was requiring airlines to provide services to consumers facing extended take-off delays (27%). Only 6% were concerned with creating a consumer complaints hotline, and 1% want to require airlines to provide text or e-mail notices for changes in flight status.

Even though fee prices are available online, it is difficult for consumers to find and compare the information across airlines, according to CTA Director Charlie Leocha.

"They make it impossible for consumers to actually compare prices across airlines," Leocha said. "You have to search like mad and the fees very dramatically range."

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In 2010, U.S. airlines collected a total of more than $9.2 billion in fees for checked baggage, priority boarding and other services, according to a 2011 CTA survey.

Fees vary among airlines, and are dependent upon factors including time of booking, time of payment and credit card carrier, Leocha said. The CTA was surprised to find the airlines were so "adamant" in withholding fee information from consumers, he said.

"In a service business, I'd think they would want to let everyone know about the fees," he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill has been passed by both chambers of Congress and is now being considered by a conference committee, however there is not yet a provision that would make all airline fees visible and sellable through all the distribution channels airlines use, according to the CTA.