I’ve been delighted with the response to last week’s post in which I complained (in detail) at how complex a task it is to book flight tickets. Although I was saddened to hear that many of you have also experienced similar issues, it makes me feel slightly better that I am not the only person who has been left thoroughly confused by airlines and the illogical manner in which they price their flights.
Through trial (and much error), I managed to narrow down a date and time that was moderately cheap for my inbound and outbound flights from Baltimore International. Kate had agreed to move the dates of our schedule to accommodate this, and everything seemed rosy at this point. Eager to get one of the last remaining ‘cheap’ seats, I add the flight to my basket and proceeded to the checkout section of the site.
Again, this was a fairly simple exercise (it seems that companies are eager to make it is easy as possible to take your money, rather than help you save it), my card payment went through quickly and painlessly.
Then I got the booking confirmation.
I scrolled down to the Taxes/Fees/Charges section and was alarmed, and more than a little miffed, to find out just how much of my air fare was for actual flying.
According to the information provided, I have to pay every man and his dog some sort of fee to get from one country to the other and back again. UK Air Passenger Duty for example, it’s a well-known fact that here in the UK that you can’t even die for free these days. Everything in this country has a tax rate associated to it. The British government charging one of its citizens to travel is pretty much a given: to be British is to be taxed, I say.
£42.06 seems a little steep for a ‘UK Passenger Service Charge’ and I’m not entirely sure if that is a government sanction or one placed by the airport itself. If it is an airport charge, then I find being charged over £40 obscene. There are now self-service terminals in Heathrow that allow you to check yourself in, without the aid of one of their employees. In fact, the only thing that the airport staff need to do is put your luggage on the right flight (and you wouldn’t believe how many times they don’t) and announce over a tannoy that your flight is being called. There must be thousands of people who pass through the airport each day being charged £40 (possibly more) for essentially doing the job of the airport staff themselves. I’m sorry, but if I am going to be charged £42.06, I don’t feel as if I should have to print my own boarding passes and check myself in!
There are also a number of smaller charges levied by the US Government and these seem much more reasonable to me, although the ‘Animal & Plant Health User Fee (Aphis) – USA’ one seems a little unfair considering that I am not planning to use either a plant or an animal while visiting the country.
At least the above mentioned institutions/agencies had the good grace to clearly lay out their charges (no matter how absurd they might be), but the airline charges are decidedly unclear. The only information given is that they are ‘carrier imposed’ charges. What the hell does that mean?!
I really do hope they are not charging me £185 for my drinks and meals while on board their planes. As anyone who has ever tasted it can attest, airplane food is not something that anyone would ever pay for the pleasure of experiencing. Nor am I demanding extra leg room (even though I have pretty long legs). I am slightly underweight and so my heft isn’t going to slow the plane or make it use more fuel than it needs to. I’ll have a personal TV screen in front of me (which I didn’t ask for) and a few air hostesses walking up and down the aisles every once in a while to close my mouth when I fall asleep and start to dribble.
The fact of the matter is that half (if not more) of the cost of my tickets are made up in extra charges levied either by governments, airports, or the airline itself and yet clear guidance on why these charges are added is extremely hard to find. If I had a full breakdown of charges and why they are being placed, I think I might be more inclined to accept them.
Honestly, I think I’m going to need a vacation to get over the exhaustion of trying to book my vacation…