Airline website booking traps

We expose the website traps and surcharges that can blow out the cost of that bargain basement airfare.
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01.Air tariff control


If you’re not careful, a bargain basement airfare may cost more than you expect. Our review has found inconsistent approaches to opt-in and opt-out provisions such as travel insurance, car hire, checked baggage and carbon offsets.

Booking your next domestic flight online would seem to be a convenient way to secure cheap travel deals – after all, online booking systems appear designed to make accessing air travel easier and cheaper.  

However, many airlines bombard you with lengthy forms, often prefilled to include unnecessary optional extras. CHOICE shows you which sites to be wary of and how to avoid paying for options you don’t need.

In this report, you will find information on hidden extras using the online booking systems of:

For more information about Airline travel, please see General travel.

Video: airline-surcharges

CHOICE looks at some of the unexpected charges associated with airline travel in Australia.

Playing it safe

Travel insurance can be important for overseas and domestic travel.

Regardless of their questionable opting in and out policies, you should work out whether the cover provided by the airlines is right for you, or whether you should look elsewhere. It’s worth checking your options before you commit – after all, the one-size-fits-all policies that some airlines offer may not cover you for pre-existing issues, if you’re over a certain age or in other circumstances.

Always read the product disclosure statement before buying any travel insurance. And you may actually already have credit card-provided travel insurance. Check with your provider – you may be covered if you pay with your card.


Jetstar’s online booking system is inconsistent. Consumers must opt in to agree to:

  • Terms and conditions
  • Prepaid parking
  • SMS itineraries
But consumers must opt out of:

  • Loyalty club membership
  • Seat selection
  • Checked baggage
So make sure you click the right box if you’ve only got carry-on luggage.

CHOICE staff member Linda Magee recently booked a family trip with Jetstar. While the fare seemed cheap at first, she was shocked to find a number of extras she hadn’t realised she’d opted in for had been tacked on to the end of her bill. “I selected seats without realising they would cost extra,” she says.

“It doesn’t look like you have to pay something on top of the fare when you go through the steps, so I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on the bill at the end. By the time I realised what had happened, I’d wasted so much time on the booking process that I didn’t really have time to start again.”

But this was just the beginning; Linda was then stung by a $60 credit card payment fee. “I don’t have a Jetstar credit card, but I didn’t realise that it would cost me that much more to pay with my regular card. I paid up, but I won’t be flying with them again.”

A spokesperson told CHOICE: “Jetstar clearly discloses any charges and provides customers the choice to customise or remove any offering. We disclose this fee and fee-free payment options so there are no surprises.”


Although Qantas has recently taken a blow to its reputation, the national carrier’s online booking system is the most transparent and easiest to navigate. 

Consumers have to select whether they accept terms and conditions, want to purchase travel insurance or carbon offsets or receive emailed flight specials or have their flight details remembered by the website for next time.



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