Monday, 9 June 2008

Should British Airways keep the tax if you don't fly?

BA's Terminal 5
Last Tuesday British Airways increased its fuel surcharge for the second time in as many months. Today I'm looking at UK domestic flights from London Heathrow to Glasgow. Last week the cheapest option on BA's website was £92 return - booking at least a couple of weeks ahead.
Today BA's cheapest all inclusive Glasgow return fare available is £117.40. The fare is just £42 but the taxes, fees and charges add almost twice as much again £75.40.

Michael O'Leary at Ryanair has turned hidden air fare charges into an art form - with additional charges for almost everything any air passenger might expect - you pay extra to check in at the airport, check a bag into the hold - there's even an extra charge when you come to pay for the ticket (unless you are one of the very few people using an 'Electron' card - which is the loophole Ryanair use to make this final 'extra' legal).

We've come to expect such artful deception from Ryanair. BA is at least up-front about the additional charges and includes them in the first web price you see. The problem comes if you book - but then can't or don't fly. Shouldn't you get some of the charges back - should you pay the government imposed air passenger duty (£20) if you don't actually fly? The government doesn't get it, the airline pockets it. Should you pay extra for the high price of fuel (£32) if you're not actually on board? If the seat stays empty perhaps you should, but the chances are it will have been sold several times over (airlines are masterful at predicting how many 'no-shows' there'll be).

You can apply online to BA for a refund of taxes - even if your ticket is sold as 'fully non-refundable' but the airline charges a £30 administration fee to refund the government tax (£20) so you won't receive a penny.

Is £30 a fair and reasonable admin fee for an online transaction? I don't think so. Banks and credit cards have had their excessive fees curtailed. If the government doesn't expect to get the tax if you don't fly then neither should British Airways.

Note: After reading this my partner agreed airlines shouldn't pocket the govt tax - but wondered how much sympathy she should have for people who lose money because they don't turn up for their flights. Well, lets see, you might be sick, or desperately needed elsewhere. If you miss your flight - the car breaks down, the train is late - unless you have a fully flexible ticket you'll have to pay all over again. If you can't take the outbound flight but want to use the return leg , you'll discover you can't - the whole ticket is cancelled - and they keep the tax! I think sympathy is in order.

1 comment:

Smith said...

Most travellers who don’t use their airline ticket do not realise that they are entitled to a FULL Air Passenger Duty Refund of Government taxes and surcharges. The tax on your ticket is ONLY paid to the Government when you actually board the plane and fly. But airlines are making millions by NOT refunding these taxes to you if you don’t take your flight for whatever reason.