“We don’t want your baggage fees — we just don’t want your baggage,” spoke Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary in a recent BBC interview.
But isn’t carrying baggage a part of travel? Do you travel without baggage, Mr. O’Leary?
“There are no hidden fees on Ryan Air,” Mr. O’Leary continued, “we couldn’t be more upfront on the matter.”
Oh, really? That is not what a large consumer advocacy movement has to say about it.
What is a hidden fee?
Although there is probably no exact definition of what constitutes that which is referred to as a hidden fee when purchasing airline tickets, it is my interpretation that a hidden fee is one that is mandatory but does not shown upfront when you are going through the initial stages of a flight search. So if you do a search on an airline’s website, the price that you get in the search results should include EVERYTHING that a passenger NEEDS to take the flight. All compulsory additional fees are misleading, tricky, some could say “hidden.” For a fee not to be compulsory, there must be a complimentary alternative which a customer can take.
- You cannot buy a ticket online without using a credit card, so an additional charge for paying through this method is a hidden fee — especially when it is applied per person rather than per booking.
- Additional costs or “administrative fees” that are not included in the first price you get in a flight’s search results are hidden fees.
- Charging a “passenger checking in baggage” fee in addition to the actual baggage fee is theft.
- Fining passengers for someone else’s cancelled flight is an abomination.
- Charging for online check in when you don’t offer a complimentary alternative is a hidden fee.
- Charging to carry on infants . . . well, unless your airline can provide parents with a place to check them in, then that is going too far, Mr. O’Leary.
“The purpose of the fees is not to generate money but to change passenger behavior,” Mr. O’leary pointed out in the BBC interview.
If changing passenger behavior means pissing them off, then you, sir, are doing an excelleng job, indeed.
Purchasing airline tickets has become a “spiderwebs inside of spiderwebs” conundrum — a true maze of trickery for the consumer to walk through. When someone buys a plane ticket, all they want is to fly from point A to point B, so charging them extra for services that are inherent to and inseparable from this intent is misleading and should be illegal.
“How do you avoid infant fees?” the BBC interviewer asked trying to figure out how many of Ryanair’s additional fees could be avoided by changing passenger behavior.
“You avoid infant fees by not bringing any infants along with you,” Mr. O’Leary responded.
Being charged these extra fees when purchasing an airline ticket is like going into a restaurant, eating, and then finding a mandatory silverware usage fee on the check. But I suppose Mr. O’Leary could justify this by saying that you should just carry your own plates, glasses, and forks with you to the restaurant:
The purpose of our silverware fees is not to make money but to change diner behavior so that we don’t have to hire dishwashers and can offer you lower prices . . .
We are not that stupid, Mr. O’Leary.
There is a reason why your profits are up 23%, and it is not because people are delighted to fly your airline.
Mr. O’Leary, this is what we want to see when booking a flight:
British Airways sample flight:
Headline fare £478.80
Debit card charge £0
Two bags to be checked in £0
Bag of golf clubs £0
Cancellation levy £0
This is called transparency.
From Air Con: How to beat budget airlines