eDreams' service charges can add up to 25% to cost of flight dealsWhich? research finds charges bump up cost

26 February 2014

eDreams service charge price increase

Travellers booking flights or holidays with online travel agent eDreams could face additional charges of up to 25% of the headline price, Which? research has found.

eDreams’ initial prices might seem like a bargain, but we found that a service charge can substantially bump up costs. After receiving complaints from Which? members, we went through the booking process on the site for three flights and three flight-plus-hotel holidays.

Each time we found that the service charge could only be avoided completely by using a MasterCard debit card. Initial prices shown assume this payment method, although small print on search results advises you to recalculate prices for other types of payment. If you do use MasterCard debit you’re given an ‘eDreams reduction’, which in every case we looked at was the same amount as the service charge.

The full reduction was not applied for any other means of payment, although smaller reductions were sometimes applied for Maestro and Solo.

Find out how travel agents and tour operators perform in the Which? survey of best and worst holiday companies.

eDreams flight deals price increase

In our snapshot tests in January 2014, we found that the price increase when not using a MasterCard debit card ranged from 2% to 25% depending on the existence of discounts available.

In the most extreme example we found that a return flight between Gatwick and Madrid in March had an initial quote price of £68.32. The MasterCard debit option was automatically selected. But if we had used a Visa debit card or Visa Electron, it would have cost £85.11 – an increase of 25%.

The price rose due to a service charge of £8.40 that was added to each person’s fare for each leg of the journey, and because no discount was applied when paying with either of these two cards. A family of four would face an extra charge of £67.20.

Cheapest flights seemingly not available to all

We don’t think it’s fair that people who don’t own certain payment cards are hit with an unavoidable price increase such as this, especially as MasterCard debit card owners are in the minority.

Figures from the UK Card Association show that only 2.9 million people own a MasterCard debit or Maestro card, compared to the 84.2 million people who have a Visa debit card.

If eDreams’ service charge is linked to card usage, then the company should not charge more than the cost it incurs for the relevant payment method. These costs should be no more than 2% for processing credit card transactions, and a matter of pence for debit cards.

eDreams told us: ‘The full and final cost of a booking is made clear to each customer throughout the booking process. Any and all service charges are included in the headline price from the outset and are consistent, regardless of a customer’s chosen payment method. eDreams does not charge fees for using debit cards and any credit card charges are either equivalent or less than the cost of processing the transaction.’

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