If enough travelers stopped paying the travel industry’s infuriating surcharges and fees, would the unwanted add-ons simply disappear? Would extra charges for checked luggage, ticket change fees and mandatory hotel resort fees vanish into thin air?
Experts say they should. Readers such as Jan Jacobs wish they would.
“You are in a position to start a movement called ‘Stop paying the travel extortion fees,’ ” says Jacobs, a retired librarian from Tempe, Ariz. “Your voice could start such a movement. I hope you will.”
Jacobs saw my recent story about the most outrageous travel fees. “They should be illegal,” she says.
They are not, but efforts to regulate them have stalled. Never fear, say some travel insiders. If enough travelers refused to pay, then the fees would stop.
The truth isn’t so simple. Yes, one or two travel surcharges have been dropped because people refused to pay them. For example, US Airways began charging for soft drinks a few years ago, and it tried to impose a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy on tickets. Both of those moves were rescinded after passengers revolted. But what we have now — a fee-based travel industry operating in business where competition has been all but squeezed out — can’t be fixed by market forces alone.
Consider what happened to Jenna Rose Robbins when she boarded a Norwegian Cruise Lines Mediterranean cruise with her best friend last summer. “When we booked the cruise, we were told it was all-inclusive,” says Robbins, an editor and Web consultant based in Berlin. Then she noticed a $12-per-day charge to her room, for “gratuities.”
She said “no.”
Fine, a cruise line representative told her. She could contest the “optional” fees once the cruise ended. She did and received a refund. Those fees have since been hiked, and guests seeking to challenge them have to fill out a special form.
So much for market forces.
Danielle Ford says “no” all the time when she flies on “ultra” low-cost airlines such as Spirit and Frontier, which are notorious for charging fees. She prints her own boarding pass, travels light and turns down optional items.
“I don’t select a seat,” says Ford, a photographer based in…