Parliament demands airlines advertise true flight costs

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MEPs have backed a Commission plan making it compulsory for airlines to advertise real flight prices, rather than ‘headline-grabbing’ fare offers that fail to mention extra taxes and charges.

MEPs, on 11 July 2007, voted in favour of revising 15-year-old rules governing the aviation market in order to increase air-fare transparency, so as to make it easier for consumers to compare prices offered by different airline companies. 

Lithuanian MEP Arunas Degutis (ALDE), who drafted the report, said: “Air passengers must be treated like other consumers and thus have a right to clear and full information of the price they finally pay.” 

He added that internet-based reservations – often the only possibility for booking with low-cost carriers – are of particular concern. Low-cost companies, such as Ryanair, are in Brussels’ line of fire for advertising ‘free’ flights, despite the fact that they are in fact subject to taxes and charges ranging from €15 to €35. 

“The tactic of publishing headline-grabbing fares, sometimes as low as one cent, and then dramatically hiking the price by adding extra costs, is deliberately misleading and should be brought to an end,” Irish MEP Jim Higgins (EPP-ED) said. 

But Ryanair says it welcomes the move, adding that it “already provides passengers with a full breakdown of fares, taxes and charges before any passenger makes a booking”. 

According to the new rules, which still need to be approved by the Council, air fares addressed “directly or indirectly to the travelling public” will have to include “the price to be paid by passengers to air carriers or their agents for the carriage of those passengers and of their baggage on air services”, as well as all applicable taxes, non-avoidable charges, surcharges and fees known at the time of publication. 

Furthermore, tickets will have to indicate whether the fare includes any additional charges relating to security measures, so that passengers know exactly what they are paying for. The scheme also aims to ensure that these charges are used exclusively to meet rising airport and onboard aircraft-security costs. 

The new rules, which would enter into force as of 1st January 2008, would also prohibit airlines from charging different fares for exactly the same ticket (same time of booking, same seat and same flight) according to the country in which the buyer lives. 

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