Out of credit

WHEN the no-frills airlines started taking off, their prices were too good to be true. They were. For, having established their market share, the firms gradually introduced “hidden” charges to offset costs. Never has the small-print, or the asterisk alongside the headline charge in billboard advertisements, been so important – or expensive.

Take passengers using this region’s airports. The final cost can now include VAT, an airline administration fee, a priority boarding charge, a reserved seating fee and extra costs for those who check in baggage. And so it goes on.

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Perhaps the most iniquitous is the surcharge imposed on people who use a debit card to book flights with certain airlines. The Office of Fair Trading said this was wrong after a landmark ruling in March.

Yet, despite this, Swiss and Lufthansa have since announced plans to charge customers credit and debit card users. But, in an increasingly paperless society, how else are passengers supposed to book tickets?

It is a rip-off that can be grounded if the Treasury tables one very simple amendment. It must do so without further delay – rather than waiting, and probably in vain, for the airlines to accept that they have a duty to provide passengers with transparent fares at all times.