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Hidden airline charges ‘unfair on passengers’

By Linda Stewart

Airline passengers in Northern Ireland are paying up to two thirds more in hidden charges when they book a flight, the Consumer Council has warned.

The Council last night welcomed a pledge by the Office of Fair Trade to carry out a market study on how airline goods and services are advertised.

It comes after the Council submitted a report to the OFT on how passengers face extra charges on top of the advertised fare, ranging from £33.47 (40%) to £56.78 (67%) depending on the airline.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland customers are also losing out because they are charged when they pay their phone bills by cash or cheque instead of direct debit, the Council said.

Consumer Council chief executive Antoinette McKeown, said: “Our research has found that depending on the airline, passengers can face an increase of £33.47 (40%) from the advertised return fare to the final fare, and that’s only taking into consideration taxes and charges.

“Add one piece of luggage, a payment charge for paying by credit or debit card and any check in fees and the increase soars to £56.78 (67%).

“The Consumer Council has been listening to the views of consumers on this issue and is also concerned about those customers who face a charge from telephone companies because they pay their bill by cash or cheque instead of direct debit.

“This charge is particularly unfair given that research has shown consumers here are less likely to have a current account, and without one it is not possible to pay by direct debit. Essentially it means that people with less money to start with are often being asked to pay more, just because they are paying by cash or cheque.

“The Consumer Council believes charges for actions that are not optional such as paying or checking in should be included in the overall cost that is advertised to the consumer.”

Easyjet and BMI include taxes and charges in their advertised fare, the Council said.

Its study was based on booking four weeks in advance and examining routes to seven European and UK destinations across scheduled services operating out of Northern Ireland with travel between a Friday and Sunday.

“We are delighted that the Office of Fair Trading will now conduct a market study into advertising and pricing,” Ms McKeown said.

And she said anyone wishing to express a view about the matter can contact the Consumer Council by calling the freephone number 0800 121 6022.

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