Small Print on Travel Fares

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Have you ever found a great deal on travel fares, only to realize that the deal was bombarded by hidden fees, and you paid a lot more than what you were expecting to pay? To advertise a great price, travel fare companies often leave out the ‘extra fees’ such as taxes and other associated fees that can only be found in the small print.

The problem is usually that the small print is encoded, so that even diligent travelers who read it do not understand it. For this same reason, others simply cannot be bothered to read it. But here are some good reasons to read the small print on travel fares:

  • The most important reason to read the small print is that the taxes and fees included in it often increase the price of your ticket by up to 60%. Depending on the type of ticket you buy, these fees can include Nav Canada fees, airport improvement charges, insurance and air security charges, harmonized sales tax (HST), goods and service tax (GST) and possibly other fees that the destination country charges. In airline tickets, the fuel surcharge is usually responsible for the biggest increase, because it fluctuates and can add hundreds of dollars to the ticket price. Most travelers cannot afford to have an extra 60% added to their tickets, which often means that their holidays increase their debt and the stress that coincides with this.

  • Often the small print includes statements like: “additional charges may apply.” This basically means that, in addition to the fees disclosed in the small print, charges not at all revealed anywhere might be added later. These usually include a fee for being given an assigned seat, one for having your bags checked, one for booking by phone, one for having a paper ticket printed, and so forth. In such cases, a good idea is to go to the airline’s website, research those fees and add them to the ticket price before buying.

  • The Canadian government is in the process of making airlines state the full cost of the ticket. The fees associated with the flight will have to be listed, such as fees for additional baggage and airport fees.

  • Travel agents and online travel sites are very useful for finding the bargain-price tickets of hundreds of airlines that are not advertised anywhere else. But for this service they do charge a booking fee, which can be as much as $40. Make sure that you include it when calculating the cost of your holiday.

While the government and consumer groups are working on bringing about more honest travel advertising, a lot of work is left. Until then, the small print remains enormously important.

Make sure you read all the small print before booking your next trip!