Sometimes people mistakenly complain about unbundled airfare pricing when I believe they would be better off focusing their attention on the advertising and display of non-final airline ticket prices – that is, fares that it is simply impossible to purchase for the displayed price.  Carol Pucci in the Seattle Times has a piece looking at this practice in the US by comparing the websites of all the majors with what is being displayed on the main OTAs.

Federal laws require airline and online travel sites to disclose the total price (base fare plus taxes and fees), before customers click to buy a ticket, but how and when the airlines do that varies. Most travel websites quote a bottom-line price in their initial fare displays. Some airlines don’t, making it appear their price may be lower than it is.

I suspect one reason why this is not a more contentious issue in the US is that it is common to not know the final price when buying just about anything in a shop here. Most merchants add sales tax at the cash register, so this makes it more difficult to sustain an argument against airlines, even if the so called taxes assessed are far from identical across airlines. Angus Kidman at Lifehacker writes that the competiton regulator in Australia has been taking a more dim view of this practice.

Now the airline industry has come under fire, after a review of the sites for several of the most active airlines in the local market — Jetstar, Tiger, Air Asia, Air New Zealand, Malaysian, LAN, Etihad and American — found that they were not displaying prices in accordance with the law. (You’ll note that the dominant local players, Qantas and Virgin Blue, aren’t on that list.) Each of the airlines was told to change its sites so that all international airfares out of Australia, plus any domestic activity, clearly displayed a full price. That’s happened, but ACCC chair Graeme Samuel made it clear that any further non-compliance will be costly

So just when most markets outside the US appear to have forced airlines to show final prices at every stage on the website and not just on the payment page, a new idea comes out of left field:

In a filing to the Department of Transportation, Allegiant wants to have the option of offering a fare that could fluctuate based on the price of oil. This would mean you could buy a ticket for uber cheap now and then possibly have to pay more later if the price of oil goes up.

There is actually a very good interview with Andrew Levy, president of Allegiant Air in today’s Las Vegas Sun. In the article he goes into quite a bit of detail about how his airline (considered to be one of the leaders in ancillary revenue) will take it to the next level. He talks about plans to launch a fee for carry-on cabin baggage in the first half of this year, the tax advantages of ancillary revenue versus putting it on the ticket, and even whether the airline might introduce a loyalty program.

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