Make us your home page

Fees often hidden until flights are booked on travel Web sites

The Internet brought a revolution to air travel. One that scared most airlines silly.

Suddenly, people could search online travel agencies to comparison shop the price of flying from Point A to Point B on a half dozen or more carriers. Predictably, fares dropped.

But now, consumer advocates worry that the transparent market has turned murky. The reason: all those fees for stuff airlines used to provide for free.

Go to travel sites like Travelocity, Kayak or Orbitz, and the fares that pop up don't necessarily reflect the full cost of your trip. I shopped a round-trip flight from Tampa to New York City on a long April weekend.

Expedia showed Delta and JetBlue with the same price: $201.41. But that didn't include the cost of checking a bag. Delta charges as much as $50 extra for a single piece of luggage, $120 for two. On JetBlue, the first bag is free and the second costs $60.

When booking on airline Web sites, the fees typically don't show up until you've already entered your credit card information and agreed buy the ticket.

"If there's a fee you have to pay, it should be disclosed before you hit the 'book' button," said Chris Elliott, travel columnist and reader advocate for National Geographic Traveler magazine. "Disclosure is coming to a point of no return."

That's a bit of an exaggeration. Airlines list fees on their Web sites. It often takes some digging, but some carriers provide links right on their home page. They contend that charging passengers only if they want certain services keeps fares down for everyone else.

Keeping track of the fees can be a full-time job. Airlines now charge for blankets and pillows, for roomier exit row seats and for buying tickets from their Web sites.

The revenue is huge: Airline fees topped $2 billion in the third quarter of 2009, up 36 percent from the same period a year earlier. Checked bags made up the lion's share. Critics say it's in the airlines' interests to keep the fees "hidden."

Legislation that would force airlines to disclose fees before customers buy a ticket was in the Senate's version of a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill passed Monday.

The trade group for airlines says its members shouldn't be required to list fees for every service they offer before selling a ticket. That would be like requiring car dealers to list every option on the window sticker, said David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association .

"It isn't reasonable to disclose to (customers) which services they haven't purchased before buying a ticket," he said.

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.

Fees often hidden until flights are booked on travel Web sites 03/23/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 11:29am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street


    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24


    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights


    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.


    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]