Hidden Airline Fees Spark Online Petition

The angst for hidden airline fees became more vociferous on Tuesday when three advocacy groups for travelers and travel agencies grabbed headlines by making an online petition called madashellabouthiddenfees.com.

The American Society of Travel Agents, the Business Travel Coalition and the Consumer Travel Alliance made the site in hopes of forcing airlines to be more transparent on fees. They also want to allow travel booking companies access to free schedules.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation is examining this growing problem,” the site read. “They want your views on whether airlines should make their fees clear on their own websites and make them available to all travel agents so that travelers can compare the total cost of travel.”

The petition will be taken to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood on Sept. 23, hoping the government will force airlines to present fees through global distribution systems and online travel agencies.

According to “Mad as Hell About Hidden Fees,” ancillary fees can add up to 30 percent more on to travelers’ airfare tickets.

In 2009 fees such as checked bag, Wi-FI, and seat upgrades accounted for $7.8 billion in revenues for U.S. airlines, and many of these fees are hard to track because the airlines have unbundled them and don’t charge them until after the initial booking.

The airline industry disagrees, saying fees are readily viewable on all sites and flyers have the option of sticking to base fares so long as they don’t want to add extras such as Wi-Fi, upgraded seats, or check bags.

David Castelveter, the Air Transport Association spokesman, told the Dallas Morning News yesterday that fees are only incurred when passengers go for more options.

“I went to the websites of all our members, and there isn’t one of our carriers that didn’t have bag fees prominently displayed when you book,” he told the Dallas Morning News.