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Over the last few years of being in the travel industry I have witnessed great concern over increased airline fees that are now being imposed by most airlines. Unfortunately, the days of simply purchasing an airline ticket for a cost has come to an abrupt end. Since 2008 when checked bag fees began to surface one doesn’t just purchase an airline ticket for the cost of the ticket. Instead the airline ticket is purchased, but the passenger must adhere to additional expenses and funds are still to be spent on items and/or services that were previously conveniently included in the cost of the ticket. If the traveler is not fortunate enough to be a premium class passenger, a military member on a mission or have a high frequent flier status they are not exempt from certain fees and could easily spend a few extra hundred dollars on services that are in addition to their actual ticket cost. For example, on an international flight with Delta or Northwest Airlines the second bag fee is $50.00. A small family of three would then be required to spend $150.00 or more for bags in addition to the ticket costs if, of course each traveler has a 2nd bag to check. The list of what receives additional fees seems to be growing. Initially additional fees were for items or services such as checked baggage, drinks and better seating. Now passengers are also paying for blankets and pillows. It may be that one can easily understand the position of airlines with the global rising cost of fuel. Also, one may understand that while airlines have been allowed to add additional fees for common services normally associated with flying these increased fees have understandably greatly and in many cases adversely affected the traveler and/or the organization in which they are employed.
Naturally, with corporate travel more responsibility falls onto the organization to properly keep business travelers as properly informed and educated as possible. Doing this would then allow organizations to hold the traveler responsible for their choices of bags checked, extra services requested and received and also an in-depth internal reporting of additional services/fees may be a consideration. It is my understanding that many corporate travelers are being required to provide receipts for such fees upon submitting vouchers for reimbursement, however without policies in place to enforce this many organizations may face much difficulty.
In my daily work routine I communicate with travelers and travel managers alike. Therefore, I often hear their voiced thoughts, opinions, and concerns regarding increased airline fees. While thinking about these added fees a couple of the following questions to ponder come to mind. If an organization requires the employee to travel should they deny reimbursement for additional fees? To what extent should an organization train their employee travelers? Should there be a cap of what is reimbursed to the traveler? How can organizations accurately capture data and identify what fees are incurred during each travel instance? Should travelers be required to travel with only one bag with the exception being if additional bags are needed to perform work duties? Would this then be for international as well as domestic? How are the airlines being held accountable so that this new “allowed” fee income is not abused?
Travel these days can be complicated especially for the one who travels very little. Therefore, it seems that the best and most effective way to control extra expenses when flying is for each person traveling to be educated about additional fees prior to arriving at the airport. When traveling in this day and time with such competition among airlines and with the increasingly high fuel costs the old saying that “knowledge is power” will truly also be very effective in saving hard earned dollars and will undoubtedly bring much needed peace of mind.
By Michelle Kennard