The price you actually have to pay
Booking via Internet - often the only possibility with low-cost air carriers - is a particular concern. Under the EU regulation, all carriers will in future have to provide the general public with comprehensive information, "including on the Internet," on their air fares. Air fares that are "addressed directly to the travelling public" will have to include all applicable taxes, non-avoidable charges, surcharges and fees known at the time of publication.
The following information, at least, must be specified: air fare or air rate, taxes, airport charges and other charges, surcharges or fees, such as those related to security or fuel. Optional price supplements must be communicated in a clear, transparent and unambiguous way at the start of any booking process and their acceptance by the consumer must be on an "opt-in basis".
According to Arūnas DEGUTIS (ALDE, LT): "This regulation promotes price transparency for the passenger and fair prices. The passenger has a right to know the actual price of the ticket, including taxes and extra charges. It is misleading to advertise a ticket at 1 or 2 euros, when the actual cost is actually much higher."
Brian SIMPSON (PES, North West Labour, UK) said:" Apart from flight delays, the most complaints that I receive against airlines concern the way that they lure people with what appear to be low fares and conveniently tell them the true cost only at the very end of the process. Low fare airlines have perfected this art over recent years.
Now, not only will the customers see the true price, but also the security taxes levied by national governments will have to be highlighted separately. This transparency has to be a good thing, and I hope it will end what has been over recent years an exercise in deceit by some airlines which try to con the travelling public into believing they are buying a very cheap ticket when the opposite is true."
Security taxes and charges
With security charges on the rise, MEPs successfully argued that the consumer has a right to know how high these costs are, and what they are used for. Where airport or on-board security costs are included in the price of an air ticket, these costs will have to be shown separately on the ticket or otherwise indicated to the passenger. And, whether levied by the Member States or by air carriers or other entities, security taxes and charges must be transparent and be used exclusively to meet airport or onboard aircraft security costs.
A wide-ranging regulation
The new rules on transparency of air fares are part of a regulation which updates existing EU legislation on a range of matters to do with the operation of air transport services in the Community.
Among other things, it aims to establish a level playing field for leasing aircraft and to clarify who has administrative responsibility for revoking or suspending licences.
In addition, stricter controls on the financial situation of airlines should ensure that, if a carrier is on the verge of going bankrupt, passengers' rights can be safeguarded.
Moreover, Member States must now ensure the proper application of Community and national employment legislation to employees of any Community carrier operating air services from an operational base outside the Member State where that carrier has its principal place of business. In the past, the use of bases outside the country of origin has made it difficult to determine which territory's employment laws apply to crews.
The new regulation should enter into force later this year or early next year.