Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New DOT Regulations Affect the Way We Advertise ~ Not our Commitment to You!

Client: Do you actually know the capital of Japan?
Travel Agent: Of course I do...'J'

I've been in the travel industry for over 20 years - yikes, that's a long time, but we all know how time flies when you're having fun!  While the above interaction may well have happened when I first came onto the travel scene, I must say I've learned a lot since then!  As long as I can remember it's been a frustration of most travel agents to receive a call from a client inquiring about the $49 advertised airfare to say, Las Vegas, only to have the final cost of the roundtrip ticket be more like $138.  Granted the fine print usually spells it out, we all know we don't always take the time to read it.  Over the years I've been called some crazy names by frustrated clients.  Most are saved for an office 'Happy Hour' where we get together and laugh about what has always been considered a 'Job Hazard'   (You know, we all have 'em...we just learn to live with 'em!)

Within the last few weeks, you may have noticed what seems like significant price increases on our website.  For the most part pricing has remained the same, however, the way we are displaying the pricing has changed. 

The change took effect on January 26 and was mandated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in an effort to provide more transparency for the consumer related to travel costs. The change affects the air component in vacation packages and states all airline, government related taxes, and fuel surcharges must be included in the advertised price.

What’s not included in the new advertised pricing rules? Fees charged and payable to the airline for seat assignments and/or baggage fees, which can notably be a hefty add on to your travel cost. Also not included, are any entrance/departure taxes which may be charged at international airports and any resort fees which are payable directly to the hotel. Can you say confusing?  Sometimes even to us and we are the experts!

Allow me to explain.  In the past a $499 advertised price for an airline ticket to Paris would have been closer to $699 once all airline and government taxes were added.  A vacation package to Mexico would have been advertised at $899.  However, taxes could've been up to $150 resulting in an actual cost of $1049.  See what I mean?  While we welcome the change, we realize the sticker shock of new advertising rules will take some time getting used to.

Take cruising.  A typical Caribbean cruise has 'taxes and fees' of up to $300 per person!  Alaska cruises and Alaska Land/Sea vacations can have taxes and fees of up to $450!  All these additional costs has made advertising to our valued clients very challenging.  Although disclosing the additional costs related to cruises in the advertised price is not yet mandated by the DOT, we have made the decision to include them anyway so what you see is what you pay.  Our goal is to have our clients informed and comfortable with all costs involved in travel.  We hope to eliminate the confusion, the guessing games or any drastic difference in advertised fares and actual trip cost.  While there remain several variables that can affect pricing, such as travel dates, availability, etc., we are confident that using the same rules for all advertised travel will take the chore out of searching the fares and make for more realistic pricing.

Along with changing the way fares are advertised, the new rules bring other consumer-friendly changes. 
  • Clients now have 24 hours to change or cancel a flight reservation without a fee as long as your flight does not depart within 7 days.
  • Bans price increases once a ticket has been purchased.
  • Requires that airlines must now disclose any baggage fees during online purchased and e-ticket confirmations.
  • Airlines must provide prompt notification about flight cancellations, diversions or delays of more than 30 minutes.
  • Passengers will be eligible for higher levels of compensation when 'bumped' from a flight.
For most of us in the industry, the change is a welcome one.  One thing that hasn't changed is our commitment to you! We'll continue to work for you, searching through fare sales and deals with a fine-tooth comb to find the best travel deals out there.  We'll continue to pass them along to you so you can buy with confidence.  So, although the prices you now see on our website and our 'Snooze You Lose' emails seem to have changed, rest assured we are still working hard to find the best deals for you, our esteemed client!

Until next time...

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