Travel Notes: Airline travelers hate $200 charges most

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Here’s a surprise: Most air travelers wouldn’t mind paying more in fees — if it helped cut lines at airports.

Airlines have vehemently opposed proposals to increase government fees on airline tickets, saying higher costs would dampen demand for travel and hurt tourism.

But 60 percent of leisure and business travelers say they would support an increase if the money paid for improvements that reduce delays at airports, according to a new survey of 1,031 U.S. travelers.

The survey, commissioned by a travel industry trade group, found that government fees ranked as the least frustrating fee or tax imposed on travelers. The most frustrating fee, according to the survey, was the $200 charge that airlines impose on passengers for changing or canceling flights.

“I was surprised that the government taxes and fees were at the bottom of the list,” said Erik Hansen, senior director of domestic policy for the U.S. Travel Association, which conducted the survey. “But if you think about what it pays for, it’s aviation security and infrastructure. You need every single one of those.”

Asked what bothers travelers most about taking a commercial flight, 30 percent said delays and 26 percent said airline fees. Near the bottom of the list was taxes, with only 1 percent.

Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation’s airlines, has strongly opposed recent proposals to increase government fees on airfares, saying there is no crisis in airport funding that calls for a fee hike.

Instead, the trade group says the federal government should focus on installing a new satellite-based tracking control system to replace the radar-based system used by air traffic controllers.

Supporters of the system — known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System — say it will allow controllers to put more planes on the runways and in the air with greater accuracy. The Federal Aviation Administration asked Congress this year for $1 billion to begin installing the new system, dubbed NextGen.

CheapAir.com offers booking by train option

The Internet is jammed with travel websites to book airline flights. But the operators of CheapAir.com say they are the only air search site that gives travelers the option of booking a trip by rail.

Jeff Klee, chief executive of the Calabasas-based website, said the idea to add rail was initially aimed at East Coast travelers who might need to go from Washington, D.C., to New York or Philadelphia. A trip on Amtrak between those destinations could cost less than a quarter of the price of a flight.

“We did it primarily for East Coast routes, where train travel is a real viable alternative,” he said.

But Mr. Klee said Amtrak can also be an alternative for Southern Californians traveling from Los Angeles to San Diego or Santa Barbara.

What about adding express bus services or commuter rail lines to the search site?

“We are open to anything if it’s technically feasible,” Klee said.

Delta’s new slogan? It may be ‘‍world’s most  trusted’

Delta Air Lines may be ready to adopt a new slogan.

Delta has filed for trademark protection with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for what sounds like the airline’s newest motto: “The world’s most trusted airline.”

Delta has used several slogans over its 85-year history, including “We love to fly, and it shows” and, more recently, “Keep climbing.”

A Delta spokesman declined to comment. Industry experts say airlines often seek trademark protection for slogans simply to prevent competitors from using them.

Already taken: United Airlines’ “Fly the friendly skies” and American Airlines’ “The new American is arriving,” adopted after the merger with US Airways last year.

United States - North America - US Airways Group Inc - United Continental Holdings Inc

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