Hamfisted is a word you don’t hear to often, but after reading this article in the Wall Street Journal about hotels trying to jump on board the a la carte pricing bandwagon, it seemed like the most appropriate word to use. This part of the article sums it up perfectly.

“Some hotels are charging mandatory valet parking fees if you show up with a car. Some have upped their “resort fees,” required whether or not you use the pool or exercise room. Housekeeping gratuities and bellman fees are aggressively being added to bills, travelers report. Some motels are even charging for in-room safes, regardless of whether you use them.”

Ancillary revenue may be the hot buzzword of the moment, but even the most aggressive airlines like Ryanair understand that charging every single passenger a hidden fee is not the way to go. The rule seems to be that so long as one person can actually fly for the base price, then anyone else is legitimate game to be bled dry of any excess funds once they have purchased the ticket. And unbundling seems to be working a treat in the US, with airlines collecting US$566 million in checked baggage fees in the first three months of 2009. But it is possible to avoid these fees if you travel with no checked baggage. The hotels that have been seduced by the ancillary revenue story seem to miss this small but very important fact completely. It happened to me once in Tucson with a compulsory resort fee at the Westin La Paloma, and once in Golfe Juan where they tried to charge a daily fee for the fact that there was a fridge in the room!

If the customers don’t revolt, I’ve got a feeling it is only a matter of time until government agencies step into the picture. Airlines will probably welcome the spotlight being moved onto someone else in the travel industry.

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