The U.S. Department of Transportation has fined Continental Airlines Inc. and US Airways Group Inc. for advertising fares without disclosing fuel surcharges, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Continental faced the bigger penalty --- $120,000 --- after posting fares on its website that did not state additional fuel surcharges until potential passengers went to book the flight, according to the story, spotted on Consumerist.
US Airways has been fined $45,000 for advertising fares with an asterisk noting that additional fees and taxes may apply, but did not spell out those charges. The airline told the LA Times that the mistake was inadvertent.
Continental blamed a computer problem and said it has been fixed.
Sometimes I fantasize about simpler times. As a child, I'd walk into a pizzeria and order a slice for $1. There were no additional fees for heating it up. There were no extra charges to ensure that my slice would include cheese (although adding mushrooms or pepperoni would of course be a higher total price).
But fuel surcharges aren't optional. The airline that establishes a surcharge requires me to pay it if I want to fly.
And since fuel is a regular, expected cost of doing business, why aren't those expenses just rolled into the total cost of the ticket? Plane ticket pricing is already dynamic --- you might find that people sitting in seats next to each other paid radically different fares for the same trip. So there's no reason why these costs should be broken out.
I can understand the rationale why brick-and-mortar stores don't list sales taxes on price stickers --- even though this infuraties tourists from Europe --- because that cash will ultimately be paid to another entity. But presenting an artificially low price for a product or service by tacking on non-negotiable fees prevents customers from making accurate comparisons.
How do you feel about fuel surcharges? Have you noticed other examples of businesses that add on non-negotiable fees for their products?