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Hidden Fees: Theft in Plain Sight?
By Vijay Dandapani ~ Hotelier's outlook on NYC, travel and the industry
Tuesday, 21st May 2013
 
With the summer travel season a couple of weeks away the menace of hidden fees gets more attention in the press leading to the somewhat misleading notion that the add-ons are merely a summer practice. 

Instead, less light is shone on the nebulous extractions as business folks, who do the bulk of the traveling the rest of the year are less inclined to pay heed and object to them.

An example of that is this booking with Hertz US for a rental in Italy where the local office added a mysterious "local"  charge of €100 and doubled the charge for a child's seat besides slapping on a charge for an additional driver without disclosing it.

Fees of the foregoing kind recently prompted a UK based car rental specialist, 121carhire.com to put out a press release entitled "How to Avoid Hidden Car Hire Costs this Summer". The company notes that "on arrival to pick up the vehicle many holidaymakers are finding that the price wasn't all inclusive and are hit with hidden charges, some compulsory and some not. In a number of cases, these charges have been found to double the original quoted cost. The latter was the case mentioned above with Hertz Italia.

Airlines, however, have made hay out of the now fully disclosed baggage fees. USA Today's recent report on figures provided by the US Dept of Transportation  shows U.S. airlines earned $3.5 billion in fees for checked luggage.  They earned a further $2.6 billion on another item that they have taken to "disclosing":  fees charged for changing a reservation.

While hidden fees remain a problem for car renters hotels have gone the other way. Other than a few "resorts" most have not only taken to abandoning the practice but also given up on "ancillary" revenue with some upscale hotels offering free WiFi and local calls.

One area, rightly in the eyes of all operators, that has seen a tightening of standards is the cancellation fee with some vacation resorts requiring a full cancellation fee of a day's charge as many as 3+ days in advance of arrival.  

Add-ons would elicit far less customer opprobrium if fully disclosed. No travel provider is as comprehensive about breaking out and publicizing its list of ever-expanding add-ons as Ryan Air. As last week's article lauding Ryan Air's boss Michael O'Leary  in the Irish Independent points out no one forces passengers to fly his airline.

That is particularly true as they have more than one choice. The latter point is made clear in a recent survey put out by JD Power where airline satisfaction levels are on the rise barring gripes stemming from baggage fees which are disclosed in the booking process .

Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city. Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.

Read Vijay's blog HERE

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