WXTX Special Report: Not So Cheap Airfare

WXTX Special Report: Not So Cheap Airfare
Published: Feb. 12, 2016 at 9:04 PM EST|Updated: Aug. 11, 2016 at 12:02 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) - Some airlines are getting very aggressive in their upselling tactics.

It's apparently working financially for them at the moment, although they are taking big risks in turning off their customers.

Fox 54 takes a closer look at the airline booking process and how flyers are bombarded with excessive ploys by the airline to spend more money.

It's no laughing matter what flyers are having to shell out these days for the simplest things.

Skift.com is calling it "hate-selling," an aggressive tactic meant to shame the customer into purchasing upgrades that they did not originally want.

"The last few flights that I bought towards the end of the year was for everything from where you stand in line, you can pay for an upgrade to be first in line," said Dr. Cathy Cook with Cook Dental Care in Columbus. "You can pay an additional fee to have your baggage boarded first. You can pay an additional fee if you wanna travel or whatever. It's just a lot of little extra fees here and there."

Dr. Cook knows all too well about hate selling. She travels a lot for her business and books her own flights but not without having to deal with "costly extras" being thrown at her during the booking process.

"I have found that it is a lot of pop ups. It really hinders the process of just buying a ticket," Dr. Cook said.

The term "hate selling" is a phrase most airlines are familiar with.

When Fox 54 asked a Delta spokesman to offer an explanation, he declined to comment on camera but said "We offer a growing range of products and want to provide absolute transparency to customers so that they can be informed in advance of the products they are looking to purchase."

'It's marketing, it's advertising," said Donna Anderson with Travels by Donna in Columbus. "It's a way to increase their sales and profits and it's a way to confuse people."

Anderson says this type of aggressive selling is overwhelming to a lot of flyers who simply don't want to deal with it.

"That's why we are here," Anderson said. "We help you to avoid that. We can prevent all of those from popping up on our screen and we can make your life easier, but pop ups are a nuisance."

Get this - by charging everything from pillows to leg room, airlines around the world brought in an extra $27 billion back in 2012.

However, the $27 billion figure isn't all from passengers. The figure also includes airline miles sold to partners like hotels and car rental agencies. 

Selling the little extras, many of which, use to come with the cost of the fare now account for roughly 20 percent of carriers revenue. That's something travel experts say is not going to change anytime soon.

"As long as it's benefitting them, they won't change it. You just have to know when to watch and what to look for," Anderson said.  

Here's something you might not know. Airlines that are more aggressive about charging for the little things have higher reported income percentages.

Spirit Airlines for example, rakes in about 38 percent of its revenue by passing expenses like credit fees onto its customers. They also instituted a carryon luggage fee of $100.

On most airlines, travelers will spend about $30 apiece for perks like food, Wi-Fi and additional baggage.

"I am not a frills kinda girl. If I don't need it, I'm not buying it," said Dr. Cook.

However, buying it in some cases could prove beneficial.

"If it's a long flight maybe a four hour flight, it very well could be to have early boarding to make sure you have a spot in an overhead bin, because so many people now are taking everything on the plane that no one else can put anything under their seat or overhead because there's no room. So in some cases, that's good but overall no," Anderson said.

But for those of you who will overlook this type of scare tactics be aware that booking your flight is going to take some time.

"It does kinda encroach on your busy schedule, to have to now spend more time saying no, no, no, no, thank you, can I buy my ticket please thanks, confirm, ok, now confirm," Dr. Cook said.

If you're planning a trip soon keep in mind that there are ways to beat the system.

Take a look at these travel tips airlines don't want you to know about.

The first is consider "hidden city" ticketing for serious savings, which basically means consider buying a cheaper airline ticket for a flight to anywhere that has a layover at your actual destination.

Understand that full refunds on flights are possible to redeem.

Also, compensation owed on delayed or lost bags may be greater than you think. Some claims can be as high as $3,300.

Keep in mind that flight delays could offer a major payout.

If possible, fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Those are days when airlines have more seats available.

Additionally, we've all experienced delays on flights. But did you know that after three hours of tarmac delays, you can get off the plane? 

After two hours, the airlines must provide passengers with food and water.

You can also save hundreds by booking the wrong date.

Some companies will let you switch the date of your flight by a few weeks without paying more.

Experts also recommend checking out 'code-sharing' to find cheaper bookings between two partner airlines.

It is also recommended to use a credit card for your booking whenever possible.

Finally, keep all travel receipts, tickets and any other relevant documents for a successful claim.

You can also join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #TakeoffTips.

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