Expatica news

Watchdog questions airfares

11 August 2004

BRUSSELS – Belgian consumer rights watchdog Tests-Achats has challenged the latest hike in airfares after the rise in petrol prices.

The body has taken airlines to task over the lack of transparency in supplementary charges slapped on passenger fares.

Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have announced the introduction of additional fuel taxes on transatlantic flights and Belgium’s national carrier, SN Brussels Airlines (SNBA), is expected to follow suit.

BA and Virgin blamed the EUR 9 increase in ticket prices for long haul flights, the second rise since May, on spiralling fuel costs.

Airlines operating out of Belgium, including SNBA and Virgin Express, are facing similar concerns.

They both already raised their prices to incorporate fuel taxes last May.

The price of jet fuel used by the Belgian national carrier has risen 30 percent since the start of the year, passing USD 320 per cubic metre to the current USD 425.

“It is very likely that we will take the decision to increase fares before the end of the summer, so that it can be incorporated into ticket prices by the autumn,” said SNBA financial director Michel Meyfroidt.

This could translate into an additional charge of one to four euros for European flights.

Test-Achats has, however, challenged the legal base of the price hikes.

According to the law, all obligatory services and taxes must be included in the published price, says the consumer rights body.

The organisation has argued that price increases can only be allowed for some flights in brochures where the fares were calculated in September and October 2003 based on fuel prices and the dollar rate at the time.

The calculation method for raising the prices must be clearly stipulated and this is rarely the case.

Test-Achats has criticised the lack of transparency and the lack of control by the authorities on tour operators, including Thomas Cook and World of TUI, which also raised costs for similar reasons from the start of May.

Only budget airline Ryanair has come out shining in the circumstances.

The low-cost carrier has used the situation for a traditional PR coup by announcing that it will in no way charge customers extra for fuel costs.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news