Poland - Airline tickets without secret

In 2008, only in Poland airports served over 20.7 million passengers. While choosing an air trip many of us pay attention especially to the ticket price. Air carriers are obliged to inform us reliably about the full cost of the service they provide. Apart from indicating the ultimate price, the entrepreneur should also specify, as early as at the ticket booking stage, all the costs that cannot be avoided when travelling by plane, for example: tariffs and rates for air services, taxes, airport taxes and other charges, extra charges and fees.

Poland, along with other 9 countries: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Ireland, Island, Norway and Sweden, examined what kind of charges, fees and extra charges are imposed by various airlines, how they are calculated and whether this information complies with data provided particularly by airports. The following air carriers were included in the project: Aer Arann, Air Berlin, Aireuropa, Air France, Air Lingus, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Czech Airlines, Estonian Air, Iberia, Icelandair, Iceland Express, KLM, Lufthansa, Malmö Aviation, Norwegian, Polskie Linie Lotnicze LOT, Ryanair, SAS, Skyways, Spanair, Travel Service/Smart Wings oraz Vueling.

The price of an airline ticket comprises a basic air tariff and extra charges. As the survey revealed, fees imposed by airlines constitute 59 per cent of the additional cost of a ticket. The most common charges are:

  • fuel charge - the majority of the surveyed air carriers introduce an additional fuel charge, not related to the basic air tariff. Why? One of the airline companies stated that the charge had been introduced for the marketing reasons, to make customers realise why the cost of travelling by air is increasing. Another company justified that it is easier to adjust ticket prices to the fluctuating costs – when oil prices increase it is enough to change the price of the additional fuel charges, instead of changing prices in every booking class;
  • booking/service/ticket delivery charge – airline companies claim that such charges have been introduced most of all to cover part of the expenses made for maintenance of the ticket online booking system and those related to current service costs;
  • insurance charge – introduced due to high insurance costs which have increased after 11th September 2001;
  • security charge – apart from security charges imposed by airports some airline companies introduce additionally their internal fees.

How do entrepreneurs calculate the charges? The majority of the surveyed entrepreneurs was not able to answer this question, a few carries were not even able to indicate the precise amount of charges imposed by them. Moreover, airline companies very rarely make the list of particular ele-ments constituting the price available to interested parties, which does not comply with the Community provisions which have been in force since 1st November 2008. The survey results indicate also that the levied charges are not transparent: carriers introduce various additional charges and even different names for the same charges. Therefore, the customer is not given a chance to compare different offers.

Out of the remaining costs of the ticket price 41 per cent constitute charges and taxes imposed by airports and state authorities constitute. Information provided by airline companies concerning the amount of charges was consistent with that obtained from the airports and from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Incompliance concerned single cases. For instance, one of the airline companies established charge for the disabled higher than that introduced by airports. Moreover, there were some divergences between information which could be found on the carriers’ websites and information obtained directly from them.

This international project was co-financed by the European Commission. The survey was carried out twice: in November and December 2008 and in June this year. In Poland, it was conducted by the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (OCCP) and the Civil Aviation Office (CAO) and consisted in inspection of PLL LOT and Austrian Airlines. No incompliance was stated in any case.

What you should remember before buying an airline ticket:

  • it is wise to compare offers of several carriers paying attention in particular to additional charges, such as charges for paying by credit card, excess baggage, etc.;
  • every air carrier can apply different rules concerning returning the ticket in case of resigna-tion. Therefore, you should familiarise yourself with these rules in order not to be disap-pointed afterwards.
  • before making a final decision on buying a ticket you should read thoroughly airline regula-tions – General Terms and Conditions for Transportation which should be presented to every passenger in the process of booking.