Additional fees when booking flights online
Prices vary depending on payment method
Online travel agencies are very popular today. Most consumers like to book their flights online. But some problems tend to raise anger among consumers: Additional fees that only appear at the very end of the booking process.
In general, all applicable charges have to be stated at the beginning. Additional fees that occur subsequently are usually charged for specific means of payment like credit cards or direct debit.
According to Barbara Forster, travel rights expert of the European Consumer Centre Austria (ECC), this practice is problematic: "Portals are obliged to offer at least one payment method free of charge. However, those offered are often very uncommon methods. All other options are charged with additional fees."
A fee that is only applied to a specific payment method contradicts the "Zahlungsdienstegesetz" (ZADIG) that came into force in 2009. Some flight portals reason that the "service fees" charged are similar to common booking fees that would be charged by regular travel agencies also. "If this is the case, the fee would occur at every booking, without distinction", Barbara Forster explains. "In our opinion, those are hidden credit card charges."
What to consider in detail
If you got the impression that you were charged additional fees at the end of your booking process, ECC Austria advices to check the following points:
Of course it is annoying when an additional fee occurs at the very last booking step, after you chose your specific payment method.
In some cases, this fee is already included in the final price, which means that you are not charged more than what was stated when you clicked the booking button (it is easy to overlook the raise). It has to be checked in detail whether or not the fee is justified in principle, but also if the amount charged is reasonable. In order to get this checked, please turn to ECC Austria with all necessary documents (see below).
However, if you agreed to another price than what was charged later, you don't have to pay the additional costs.
Support by ECC Austria
In order to be able to examine your case in detail, ECC Austria needs screenshots to prove the described circumstances.
Therefore, if you haven't already made screenshots during your first booking, please make a test booking (but don't click on "book" at the end!). Make screenshots of every side of the booking process, every time before you click on "OK" or "next". Please make sure that you already chose your specific payment method before you make the last screenshot! This is the only way to check which price was stated when the "book with obligation to pay" button appeared.
ECC Austria provides assistance when an additional service fee was charged during the flight booking process, in order to help consumers to get a refund of those additional costs. Complaints can be submitted to ECC Austria - including screenshots - via the online complaint form.
Further information regarding your rights as an air passenger as well as online flight bookings can be found on the website of ECC Austria under "Air Travel".