Here's the nub of the situation:
Airlines - especially money-losers in the United States - have a justifiable business need to make money after a decade of losses. In order to do this they are adding fees for things like checked bags and extra legroom in the cabin. In line with this, airline customers - i.e., we travelers - need to know what all the fees are and how much they cost, quickly and transparently.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 7, the Business Travel Coalition - an estimable nonprofit trade group for corporate travel planners - will launch an online consumer campaign in support of a proposed U.S. Department of Transportation rule (http://www.dot.gov/) that would require clearer and quicker disclosure of what the BTC calls "hidden airline fees." The BTC (http://businesstravelcoalition.com/) has additionally declared Sept. 23 to be Mad As Hell Day in the U.S. as a means of dramatizing its support.
In the USA, where free-floating, politicized anger is the coin of the realm in a badly polarized society, Mad As Hell Day may be an unfortunate name. But there is little doubt the campaign's basic point is a good one: Consumers should know, from airline Web sites and other sources, just how much money proliferating airline fees contribute to the ultimate, real cost of their airline ticket. The BTC says checked baggage fees alone "can add 30 percent, 40 percent or more to the cost of a ticket.''
The proposed rules change doesn't prohibit airlines from making business decisions to add fees - it pushes them to clearly disclose the fees.
Airline industry groups such as the Air Transport Association (www.airlines.org/) point out that this information is available on airline Web sites. But it is often buried deep in the fine print where travelers have a hard time rooting it out. Why not make it easy?
The BTC asks consumers who support its campaign to sign a petition on the dedicated Web site http://madashellabouthiddenfees.com/. Moreover, the organization asks supporters to "post a link to our Web site on your Facebook page, Twitter feed or other social network."
The BTC's chairman, Kevin Mitchell, also suggests checking out a new YouTube video "by life-long traveler Betty Stewart, and share your story about being surprised by hidden airline fees in the comments section.''
Mitchell writes: "It is imperative that we as consumers have the ability to comparison-shop and know the full cost of a trip before committing to a purchase.''