Major US Airlines Fail to Disclose Most Fees on Their Websites

Major US Airlines Fail to Disclose Most Fees on Their Websites

Air travelers, beware! A recent analysis by the Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), a non-profit organization promoting consumer interests on travel policy issues, shows that major US airlines fail to disclose the vast majority of fees they practice on their websites, although they make a habit out of stating they do. CTA and other leading consumer and travel organizations are meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today to support his efforts to bring full transparency to airline fees.

The analysis released today tracked the time and effort required from a typical two-bag traveler in need of extra legroom to find and calculate the total cost of a flight from Washington, DC to Orlando, Florida. Here are the key findings:

  • Not a single one of the seven airline websites in the study offered a page or chart with specific fee information regarding extra legroom or seat upgrades.
  • Although the airline sites disclosed baggage fees, those fees were often multiple clicks away from the main page and buried in diagrams and legal fine print.
  • To compare baggage fees and attempt to find the fees for extra legroom, a typical traveler would have to visit seven different airline sites, view 47 different web pages, and dig through more than 11,000 words of airline fine print.

The airlines are asking travelers to put on a blindfold and hand over their wallets every time they buy a ticket,” said Charles Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance. “There is no way for a traveler to find the vast majority of extra fees charged by airlines on their websites, because those fees aren’t even listed. That’s why two-thirds of air travelers said in a recent survey that they had been surprised by hidden fees at the airport. If airlines want to charge ancillary fees, they should be required to disclose those fees through every distribution channel in which they sell their tickets.”

The CTA analysis also provided proof that the frequent airline claims that all of their ancillary fees are listed on their websites are in fact false.

Travelers wanting to do something about the hidden fees can visit, a joint effort of the Consumer Travel Alliance, Business Travel Coalition, and American Society of Travel Agents, and sign petition urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)to take action and makes sure the fees are finally fully transparent. The three organizations plan to present the petitions to the DOT on what they call the “Mad As Hell Day”, September 23rd.