Putting air fares in perspective

By | Category: Travel rumblings

© Dan Sperrin

I’ve just booked a return trip to California. The cost? £162. Yes, I kid you not, that is the price of an airline ticket on British Airways. Except that it’s not. The ticket might be that price but all the other extras and taxes and surcharges bring it up to £541.89.
But it’s only when you look at the add-ons that you begin to wonder. For a start BA charge £239.00 as a fuel surcharge. Why break that out? If I go to a greengrocers and buy a pineapple I don’t expect to pay 20p and a further 80p for the fuel surcharge on getting it from Brazil to here. I pay £1. On top of that BA charges £4.50 for using a credit card so altogether BA slap on an additional £243.50.
The American government charges me a Customs User Fee of £3.50, an arrival Transportation Tax of £10.60 as well as a departure Transportation Tax of the same amount. I get charged £3.20 for an Animal & Plant User Fee despite the fact that I am not planning on having anything to do with animals or plants before I go. If I swear on a stack of bibles, will I get that removed? Not a chance. So why tell me about it? Why not just lump it as US taxes or charges to visit their country? Then there is a charge for £1.60 which covers the Passenger Civil Aviation Security Service Fee and £4.50 for an Immigration User Fee. How is that that I only pay £1.60 for security but twice as much for plant and animal health? And finally there is a Passenger Facility Charge of £2.90 which according to the FAA website, is for airports to “…use these fees to fund FAA-approved projects that enhance safety, security, or capacity; reduce noise; or increase air carrier competition.” But haven’t I already paid for some of these in the other taxes? So the US taxes add up to £36.90. Or thereabouts because as the pound moves against the dollar you might see some slight changes.
But these pale compared to the British government charges of £99.49, nearly three times as much. APD is £65 (this is the new rate for Band 2 as from April unless the chancellor has a change of heart in the budget this week) and there is a £34.49 Passenger Service Charge which covers the use of an airport’s facilities. But if I use a supermarket I don’t get charged to walk through their store or use a trolley (the £1 is refunded if I pay at all.)
The government talks about transparency; the airlines talk of the same but it seems to me we have a deluge of taxes that disguise more than they reveal!

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