News item

Now airlines are hiding extra charges in your suitcases!

An investigation by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) exposes how major airlines are now bagging extra charges from passengers.

Baggage fees are not being made clear by some on-line operators - and checks by trading standards at one airport found many sets of check-in scales were faulty, leading to customers being charged wrongly for 'excess' weight.

The investigation also highlights a host of other practices in which airlines are making money without being 'up front' with their customers about their charges.

TSI today calls on airlines to be clearer about baggage limits and the excess charges payable - and to train check-in staff to make sure their scales are weighing accurately.

Bruce Treloar, TSI's national lead officer for holidays and travel, said: 'Since February 2006, we have been raising concerns about the lack of transparency of flight pricing and the OFT last August announced it was taking action against 13 online airlines over misleading holiday pricing. But our investigation proves that a number of airlines are finding new ways to add extra charges to flight prices.'

The TSI investigation found:

  • Increasing confusion with baggage limits and extra charges levied by airlines when luggage is checked in at the airport, rather than online when the booking is made.
  • Inaccuracy of scales used to weigh luggage at airport check-ins.
  • A bewildering use of 'tick boxes' on websites. One required customers to put a tick in a box to avoid extra charges - while on the same site they were required to remove the tick to avoid extra charges!
  • Families with children and people with disabilities, including those with visual impairments, cannot check in baggage online, resulting in extra charges at the airport.
  • 'Priority boarding' charges - yet no choice of seat on the plane.
  • One airline that charges an extra fee just to check in at the airport.

Consumer Direct reported a 64% increase in air travel complaints last year, compared with 2006. So, as well as the misleading information on websites, TSI looked further into the mounting complaints about baggage weighing and pricing.

Following one complaint about the accuracy of a baggage weigher, an airline was visited by trading standards officers at the request of the British Airports Authority. A total of 18 sets of scales were tested - of which 10 were showing a weight on the machine even before the customer's baggage was lifted on.

'The significance of these errors is compounded by the fact that all check-in staff at every airport in the UK can easily correct the indication on the scales by pushing a button, which sets the scale indication to zero, before the consumer is asked to put their baggage on,' said Mr Treloar.

'The findings of our investigation show that, despite the spotlight being on them , airlines are still not being up front about the true cost of flights - and it's clearly a nightmare for consumers.'

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald OBE, chairman of LACORS, said: 'LACORS has worked hard with the Trading Standards Institute and the Office of Fair Trading to crack down on airline websites that are less than fair and transparent. Unfortunately some airlines are using ever more spurious ways to confuse consumers and hide costs during the booking process.

'As more airlines start charging to check in luggage it's important travellers know that their bags are being weighed accurately. Council trading standards officers regularly check airport weighing equipment to make sure they are accurate. Whilst the vast majority of weighing scales are accurate, customers should always check that scales read zero before checking in their bags and report any suspicious practices to their local council's trading standards service.'

Frances Tuke, ABTA spokesperson said: 'Transparent pricing is very important to ABTA, its Members and the credibility of the industry. Non-optional extras have to be included in headline prices, but where other costs maybe incurred - such as baggage charges - companies must do their utmost not to mislead.'

Notes to Editors

A full copy of Bruce Treloar's TSI report - 'A Trading Standards investigation into misleading travel prices on the Internet'(PDF 118KB) - is available from the TSI press office on 0845 608 9430 or

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.

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Consumer Direct is a Government-backed telephone and online consumer advice service which works in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards. It provides clear, practical and impartial advice and information to help consumers resolve problems and disagreements with suppliers of goods and services. Consumer Direct is available from 0800-1830 Monday to Friday, and 0900-1300 Saturday, excluding bank and public holidays.

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