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Airlines cash in on card surcharges before 2013 ban

Which? reveals the firms charging excessive fees

Surcharges campaign logo

New Which? research reveals that some airlines have been introducing or increasing card surcharges in an apparent 11th-hour bid to rake in extra cash before the ban on excessive charges comes in next year.

Last December, the government backed the Which? surcharges campaign and pledged to ban excessive debit and credit card charges. The move is great news for consumers as it should bring an end to the disproportionate fees that you’re often hit with when using a debit or credit card.

Companies cash in during surcharges window

Unfortunately, the legislative process is likely to take 12 months, so the new rules won’t come into force until the end of the year. That gives companies another 10 months to milk extra charges from customers. Which? estimates consumers are paying £265,000 a day in debit card surcharges to airlines alone.

Processing a debit card payment costs around 8p-20p, while credit card payments typically cost around 1.5% to 2% of the transaction value. But a family of four taking a return flight could pay £48 in debit card surcharges with some airlines – that’s at least 240 times the processing cost. The same family spending £2,000 on flights with Jet2 would pay a hefty £147 in surcharges if they paid by credit card (see table below). We’re highlighting the worst offenders, in a bid to turn up the pressure on them to scrap these unfair and excessive charges now.

Airlines that have put up their surcharges

The surcharge problem has grown worse over the years. Between 2004 and now, Flybe has increased its surcharges by 1,025%, while Ryanair has increased its surcharges by 1,400%. And while British Airways previously didn’t charge for credit card payments, it now charges £4.50 per passenger.

Some companies have even put up their charges since we submitted our super complaint in March 2011. BMIbaby, Flybe, Jet2 and Ryanair have all increased their surcharges, while Swiss and Lufthansa have introduced credit card surcharges of £4.50 per passenger. Although Swiss was rated the top short-haul airline in a recent Which? poll, this may change as the charges hit customers’ pockets.

Good news for some airline passengers

At the same time, some companies have either reduced or removed their surcharges. Monarch, for example, has scrapped debit card charges, although it now charges a flat fee of £10 per transaction for credit card payments. In January, Easyjet replaced its debit card fee with a flat fee of £9 per transaction, regardless of payment method. This is included in the total charges shown and is more transparent.

Airline charges and website clarity on test

The table below shows how much a family of four would be charged in debit and credit card surcharges for flights costing £500 and £2,000. It also shows where on the flight results page surcharge details are shown, if at all.

Charges to pay for flights by debit and credit card
Airline Surcharge details on flight details page? [a] Credit card surcharge for return flight for family of four (£500 cost) [b] Credit card surcharge for return flight for family of four (£2,000 cost) Debit card surcharge for return flight for family of four (£500 cost) Debit card surcharge for return flight for family of four (£2,000 cost)
Wizz Air Details on page £56 £56 £40 £40
Aer Lingus Details in € on page £48 £48 £48 £48
Ryanair Link to ‘optional fees’ page £48 £48 £48 £48
Flybe Link to fees £44 £44 £36 £36
BMIbaby Link at very bottom of page £40 £40 £28 £28
Jet2 Link to fees £36.65 £146.59 £18 £72
Air France Link to fees £18 £18 £0 £0
BMI Unclear link £18 £18 £0 £0
British Airways Details on page £18 £18 £0 £0
Lufthansa Details on page £18 £18 £0 £0
Swiss Details on page £18 £18 £0 £0
EasyJet Details on page £12.50 £50 £0 £0
Monarch Unclear link £10 £10 £0 £0
German Wings Unclear link £7 £7 £7 £7

Table notes

  1. ‘Details on page’ = surcharges are shown directly on flights results page. ‘Link to fees’ = clicking on a link opens a new window with fee details. ‘Unclear link’ = Surcharges are mentioned on the page, but without actual figures or a direct link. The user has to click on an FAQs or terms and conditions link elsewhere on the page to find details of card surcharges.
  2. The table is ordered by credit card charge for flights totalling £500, then by debit card charges for the same flights.


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