Watchdog attacks airlines over website pricing

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Airlines must avoid misleading customers by universally switching to pricing that includes taxes, fees and charges (TFCs) on their websites, the industry's watchdog has demanded.

In 2005 the Air Transport Users Council (AUC) prepared a report showing that 43 per cent of customers buying plane tickets online were unaware that only some airlines included TFCs in their prices.

Today's follow-up report from the AUC finds that while most airlines have incorporated TFCs into their prices some – notably budget airlines – have failed to do so.

"There remains a risk that passengers are not aware that airlines charge different TFCs on a route and therefore might not look at other airlines' websites to compare fares," AUC chairman Tina Tietjen explained.

"In addition, passengers now have a further problem in that they must compare prices between those airlines that include TFCs in their prices and those that don't. The only solution is for all airlines to switch to all-inclusive pricing on their websites."

The report found insufficient justification for airlines continuing to separate TFCs from the overall charge. While some TFCs are levied by external bodies, like government-imposed airport taxes, others – like the fuel surcharge – are part of the airlines running ports, the report claims.

"They are in fact a cost of doing business - like cabin crew uniforms or in-flight catering," it notes.

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