Euro MPs have approved a measure to ban airlines from advertising cheap flights that do not include the taxes and charges passengers have to pay. The new rules are expected to come into force across the EU by the end of 2008. Omar Bucchioni flies “free” to Strasbourg to tell us more.
Who: European Parliament
When: July 2008
Law stated as at: 15 July 2008
The European Parliament – none of the 785 members of the EU assembly raised any objections – approved a bill on 9 July 2008 to ban airlines from advertising cheap flights that do not include the taxes and charges passengers have to pay. The new rules had already been agreed by EU transport ministers but needed a green light from MEPs. The new regulation is not yet published but expected to come into force across the EU by the end of 2008.
A European Commission co-ordinated survey http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/10/12/europe/ticket.php released October 2007 and conducted by consumer protection authorities in 15 European countries pointed out the large number of passengers misled by internet sites. A European Commission report in May 2008 claimed a third of people who shop for flights online are being cheated by misleading ads and price schemes.
Many ads fail to show the exact figure and people are paying more than they expected. The problem has soared thanks to increasing internet sales, particularly as online booking is often the only possibility with low-cost air carriers. Airlines and other travel companies often add airport taxes, handling fees, baggage and seating charges, and a variety of other costs, on top of the prices that first appear on Web sites.
About 700 million travellers fly on EU airlines each year and the sector draws more consumer complaints than any other. The EC survey in 2007 found more than 100 airline websites offering misleading prices.
Arunas Degutis, the Lithuanian member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament who drafted the bill said “The passenger has a right to know the actual price of the ticket, including taxes and extra charges. It is misleading to advertise a ticket at 1 or 2 euros, when the actual cost is actually much higher.”
The new rules state that airlines must provide “comprehensive” ticket price information to customers, including on the internet.
Quoted fares “addressed directly to the travelling public” must include all:
- applicable taxes;
- non-avoidable charges;
- surcharges; and
- fees known at the time of publication e.g. air traffic control charges or duties, surcharges or fees, such as those related to security or fuel, and other costs of the airline or the airport operator.
Optional price supplements must be “communicated in a clear, transparent and unambiguous way at the start of any booking process and their acceptance by the consumer must be on an ‘opt-in’ basis”.
The problem has soared thanks to increasing internet sales, particularly as online booking is often the only possibility with low-cost air carriers.
Why this matters:
Under the rules now approved and expected to come into force by early 2009, airlines will have to show clearly the total price customers will have to pay at the start of the online booking process. Will this be the end of ultra-low air ticket prices highlighted in ads? No more advertising of 99p or €1 fares on websites?