Cheap-flight ads often don’t list all costs
May 13, 2008
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — When Illesheim military spouse Kelly Belliveau saw an advertisement for cheap flights to the States, she thought a trip home would be a perfect gift for her husband before he deployed to Iraq.
But the couple’s excitement at the prospect of seeing relatives soon turned to anger after they discovered that the 299-euro fare advertised by MTI Travel — for a flight from Nuremberg to Orlando, Fla. — did not include extra taxes and charges, she said.
The 299-euro rate “sounded pretty good,” Belliveau said. “But when I called them they said they wanted 500 euros” for the trip.
Her husband, Spc. Sean Belliveau, 32, serves with 3rd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, which is preparing to deploy to Iraq this summer.
“He wanted to go home during block leave, but it was going to cost 1,500 euros for the whole family. Now I have to break my husband’s heart and tell him he can’t go home and see his parents,” she said.
MTI owner Moshe Asolin did not say why his agency chose to advertise the price without the added taxes, but did say he is not unlike the other travel agents who cater to Americans in Europe.
A quick search of some travel Web sites backs up Asolin’s claim.
ABC Travel’s Web site, www.abctravel.de, offers a round-trip flight from Germany to Boston during May at 222 euros plus tax. Yet a search for a flight to Boston departing Frankfurt on May 15 and returning May 25 yielded a cheapest fare of $585.50 — about 363 euro.
A search on the USD Travel Web site also turned up prices far in excess of those advertised.
For example, USD’s recent advertisement in Stars and Stripes offers a round-trip flight from Germany to New York from 250 euros plus tax, but the cheapest flight available on the Web site, for a flight leaving May 15 and returning May 25, costs 707.82 euros, including 236.80 euros tax and a 10-euro “nofrill surcharge.”
Hannes Beer, owner of the Grafenwöhr USD Travel shop, said the prices advertised in the newspaper are for January and February and need to be updated.
The ad does say “January/February departures.”
“We had these cheap rates in the low season. The closer the peak season comes, the more is the probability that gas taxes will be added. With the high taxes the tickets are very expensive this year. They are more expensive than they have ever been,” he said.
Stars and Stripes advertising manager Ed Kelin said Monday that prices quoted in advertisements are not checked by the newspaper but that advertisers are expected to abide by U.S. laws governing truth in advertising.
Soldiers and dependents are also concerned about the low dollar since airfares are priced in euros, he said.
“That contributes to people thinking tickets have become more expensive. People think twice whether they want to fly or not because of the high rates with the dollar,” he said.
ABC Travel spokeswoman Alissa Foster said customers should remember that travel agents do not make any money from the taxes and airport charges.
“We make about 25 euros on a ticket sale. Sometimes it is a little more depending on specials that we can purchase,” she said, adding that airlines stopped offering agents commissions after they started selling their own tickets online.
“The problem for travel agencies is that it is just as hard for us to make a buck as anybody else,” she said.