Bargain airfares can blowout for the unwary
A CHOICE review of domestic airlines’ booking sites has found inconsistent and confusing ‘opt-in’ and ‘opt-out’ tick boxes mean cheap fares end up costing much more than expected.
CHOICE compared online booking sites for Jetstar, Tiger, Virgin, Rex and Qantas. The review found inconsistent approaches to opt-in and opt-out provisions such as travel insurance, car hire, checked baggage and carbon offsets.
“Some of the sites make travel insurance an automatic cost that you opt-out of if you don’t want it, while others ask you to opt-in if you want it. The same can apply for accompanied minors, seats with more leg room and hotel bookings,” says Ms Just.
In October 2011, sixty three percent of Australians used online booking sites to browse and book fairs.¹
“Going online to book air travel is popular and convenient, however many come with pre-ticked optional extras that can blow out bargain airfares if you are not careful,” says CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.
CHOICE says that people booking online should also be wary of pop ups that appear on some sites, making the process confusing and full of distractions.
“Pop ups are designed to offer the customer various alternatives but they disrupt the flow of the booking and you can end up paying for options you don’t need – you really have to have your wits about you,” says Ms Just.
Of the five sites reviewed by CHOICE, Qantas had the easiest site navigation and most transparency.
“Customers who book online with Qantas have to opt-in for travel insurance, carbon off sets and receiving emails on flight specials. This consistency makes things easier for the customer,” says Ms Just.
“Going online to book air travel should be a straightforward experience. But airlines will get more brownie points from their customers if they create more consistency in the booking process.”
CHOICE’s tips for booking air travel online:
1. Be aware of the opt-ins and opt-outs you choose, such as travel insurance, carbon off sets and checked baggage. These options vary according to the site.
2. Be alert to credit card surcharges and any extra costs you’re going to pay on top of the basic fare – the added costs may surprise you.
3. Don’t opt in for marketing messages, such as special deals, if you don’t want them. The emails can become an irritation.
¹ AC Nielsen.
Read CHOICE's report on online airline bookings.
Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669