Travelers Just Want To Know What A Flight Will Cost Upfront

Image courtesy of Eric BEAUME

There are all kinds of annoyances involved in flying, whether it’s that jerk in front of you who slammed his seat back into your knees or the fees you pay to check a bag and select your seat. But one of the most infuriating things for passengers these days? Not knowing how much your airfare will cost by the time all is said and done.

A recent air travel survey by found that 71% of travelers are annoyed by baggage fees and seat selection fees, things that used to be part of airfare, USA Today notes. Another study by the Chief Marketing Officer Council had findings along those lines too: almost two in five travelers were stressed out by trying to hunt down the best deals.

This is in line with Consumer Reports’ recent airline survey and ratings, which found that the carriers that had the highest marks — JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and Virgin America — were all rated highly for their transparency on fees. Little things go a long way.

Some in the industry believe there should be a way to compare one airline’s fares against another, with all the various fees and extra charges included. If you want to do that now, you’ll have to be ready to hop around on a few different websites. There should be an easier way, Wendy Patrick, a consumer expert who lectures at San Diego State University, told USA Today.

“Travelers are looking for price transparency easily, not through the tedious and time-consuming task of visiting individual airline websites,” she said.

Lawmakers are also trying to change the often confusing process of booking flights and give consumers a better way to compare among airlines, with Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Edward J. Markey (MA), and Elizabeth Warren (MA) asking the Department of Transportation to require more disclosure about fees.

They want the administration to compel airlines to make the comparison process easier, as they wrote in a letter to the DOT that some airlines appear to be “taking steps to restrict consumer access” to fare and schedule information. Delta Air Lines, for example, doesn’t let third-party sites like Orbitz access its flight data. That means you can’t compare Delta fares while looking at other airlines that have given a site like Orbitz access.

“We believe such practices are damaging to consumers and potentially violate our existing consumer protection laws that promote competition in the air transportation industry,” they noted in August.

But the airline industry doesn’t seem too excited to become more transparent.

“It would be difficult to find an industry that is more transparent than airlines in their pricing,” Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for A4A, an airline trade group, told USA Today. “In fact, all pricing information is readily available to travelers at the click of a button.”

Forcing air carriers to provide fare information to every booking site would be going too far, she says, because “airlines have the right to sell their product where they choose.”