Is this enough compensation? Orbitz splits the difference on departure tax

Departure taxes are the final “gotcha” when you’re flying. Just as you’re getting ready to board a flight back home someone asks you for money, and threatens to deny you boarding if you can’t cough up the cash.

Fortunately, most departure taxes are already built into the airfare. For example, when I visited St. Lucia in 1993, I was told that if I didn’t come up with the money, I couldn’t fly back to New York. I had to stop by an ATM and pay up. But last month when I flew from St. Lucia to Miami, the $26 departure tax was included in my airfare.

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Eduardo Castresana wasn’t so lucky on his recent trip to Peru. The country’s departure tax — about $6 — should have been included in the TACA airfare he purchased through Orbitz. He says for some reason, it wasn’t.

The problem started when we left from Lima to Cusco, TACA charged us airport tax or fee. We showed our electronic itinerary where it describes TACA record locator, Orbitz record locator and TACA’s ticket number.

TACA said no fees or taxes where paid by Orbitz and we had to pay if we wanted to board the airplane. We paid. When we took our journey back from Cusco to Lima and from Lima to Salvador, we were charged again for fees or taxes. Once again, we paid.

By the time every leg of his journey was complete, Castresana had shelled out a total of $84 in taxes and fees. But according to his reservation he’d already paid those, and he thinks TACA charged him twice.

“After I purchased our tickets, beside the price of purchased tickets, it clearly says, ‘all taxes paid’,” he says.

He called Orbitz, which looked at his reservation and explained that charges represented unpaid fees.

I explained in several conversations with them that I did not buy an incomplete ticket.

I did a search on Orbitz, looking for airport taxes and they have no advice about Peru. Therefore, I assumed Peru either does not have taxes or fees or if they do have them, they were paid, as Orbitz said.

Orbitz agreed to pay for half of the “fees” but when Castresana asked them to put it in writing, the online agency declined, he says.

It isn’t so much the $84 that bothers him, but the surprise of having an incomplete airline ticket. The Peruvian authorities insisted on cash payment, and they were also nitpicky.

“They do not accept bills with minute flaws,” he told me. “They have to be pristine.”

That caused a lot of unnecessary stress.

I’m not a big fan of “split the difference” resolutions. Either Castresana paid the departure taxes and related fees, or he didn’t. And if he didn’t, then he shouldn’t be getting any money back. If he did, Orbitz should refund the $84 and seek a refund from its partner, TACA.

But we live in a world of compromises. Is this one acceptable?

(Photo: Agência de Notícias do Acre/Flickr Creative Commons)

41 thoughts on “Is this enough compensation? Orbitz splits the difference on departure tax

  1. I’m a little fuzzy here… are the taxes he had to pay the ones where you hand cash to some guy sitting at a table near departure passport control in return for a stamp or sticker, or is this some other tax (like the U.S. airport facility fee) that is usually paid at reservation time?

    If it’s the latter, then of course Orbitz should pay up. 

    But if it’s the former, there ISN’T any way to pay ahead of time.  I’m not sure a discrete fee, non-prepaid fee charged by an airport (as opposed to an airline) is something that the ticket agent should be solely responsible for.  In this case, splitting the difference is more than adequate in return for Orbitz not warning him; I would have offered a 50% voucher.

    UPDATE: Just a quick Google search for “Peru Departure Tax”: “Peru: Departure tax to be paid in USD or local currency after check-in before entering gate area” So it IS the case where you cannot pre-pay… Orbitz should have warned him, but I don’t see a 100% refund in order here.

  2. @sirwired:disqus My understanding is that all of these taxes and fees should have been included in his ticket, but for some reason weren’t. So TACA tried to collect the taxes and fees again. If it turns out otherwise, then a 50 percent “compensation” is exceedingly generous.

  3. I think the writer may have been confused, as the link I found (it happened to be to Gate1 travel) stated that a tax of $5.84 is paid in cash, at check-in, for all domestic departures in Peru.  (The page specifically states when departure tax is included in the ticket price.)  This matches up with the writers payment, showing that TACA isn’t trying to charge twice, and Orbitz could not have pre-paid. (http://www.gate1travel.com/departure_tax.aspx)

    Now, there is a $31 international departure tax that CAN (but does not have to) be included in the ticket price, and Orbitz should have covered that one 100%

    Side note for anybody else reading this: That link I posted only covers countries Gate1 travels to; there are plenty of other countries that charge a cash departure fee that aren’t on that list.

  4. This is really common in less-developed countries, but a long time ago I had to
    pay it in Luxembourg – and although at the time, they used three national
    currencies (German, Belgian and French? I forget), the tax had to be paid all in
    one currency and they wouldn’t take coins. Most recently, I had to pay it in
    Ethiopia. I think the money goes to the government. There’s no way that Orbis
    could have pre-paid it, but they should have warned the customer before purchase
    that this was not the entire fare. As they didn’t, a full refund is called for.

  5. This is a contract issue- if Orbitz stated that the airfare includes “all taxes,” it needs to cover all taxes incident to the travel covered by the fare.  If there are certain taxes that, for some reason, cannot be included in the airfare, Orbitz needs to note that fact and should not represent that the airfare includes “all taxes.”  It is unreasonable to expect a traveler to check Gate1 travel’s website to learn which taxes can and cannot be included in an airfare. 

  6. I am with sirwired on this one.  In my travels to Latin America and French Polynesia I had to pay a departure tax that was levied when I got my passport stamped.  This was after the ticket counter as I was entering the “sterile” international departures area where one is considered as having exited the country.  I’ve always had to pay in cash.  It seems unlikely that it could have been included in the ticket price.

    This is the sort of thing that falls through the cracks when one uses an online travel agent as opposed to a “brick and mortar” travel agent.  A “brick and mortar” travel agent generally is knowledgeable to inform the traveler of the fee/tax and how it must be paid.

  7. There are some countries that do not allow their taxes to be included in the tickets.  Never assume when travelling over seas and when you buy a ticket online, you are responsible for getting all that information.  In my opinion, a online booking agent is there to book you the cheapest fare; which is what most people want, or else they would have gone to a local travel agent who may charge a bit more and let him know what he needs to do.

  8. A few times I have traveled where I have had to pay a departure tax at the airport, and even a special tax at a hotel.  When I used a person as my travel agent, they have always said what I will pay and how I need to pay it.  When I book on-line, I get no such advice.  I think sites like Orbitz try to show the customer the lowest price in order to get them to book with them, even if this is non-inclusive of all fees. As it’s not a sales tax, they can say that it’s paid in full.

    I will never forget the time I used Price Line and pre-paid for a hotel.  When I got to the Hotel, I still had to pay tax.  It was quite frustrating.  I chalked this up to, “This is what happens when you buy the cheapest option though an on-line agency.”

    It’s unfortunate, but I believe this is how these on-line agencies do business, and I don’t use them anymore.

  9. NO. If he paid the taxes  – he paid them. However some countries require CASH in their own currency- at the time of check in.
     I Live in the Bahamas and they used to require this $15 cash upon departure. They raised the fee to $20 and now it can be included in the ticket price.

  10. I remember my first trip coming back from Vancouver we got surprised with the “pay in cash or we won’t let you board” fee. My company travel agency did not warn me, and we only had enough Canadian cash just for the tax. So not all brick and mortar travel agencies warn you either.

    The end point is that the OP did not pay anything more out of pocket than he was supposed to, even if he was surprised about it. The fact that Orbitz is paying $42 (the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything) is fair.

  11. The most persuasive item here is the Orbitz receipt stating “All taxes paid.” Even if there were taxes that could not be paid in advance, the representation made by Orbitz is that “All” taxes were paid by Orbitz, and so the inducement to buy from Orbitz was that nothing more would have to be paid. When that inducing statement proves to be false, Orbitz must pay any further taxes, or otherwise be liable for false and misleading advertising.

  12. I visited Peru last year, and did a few domestic flights within country before flying home.  I had to pay a cash departure tax of about $6 for every domestic flight, and about $30 when flying home (international flight).  I had to pay in CASH.  This is NOT included in the ticket.

    Yes, some countries do require a cash departure tax at the airport – Costa Rica is one of them, and I think I had to pay cash in Bali as well.  This is not an unknown situation, and travelers should do their research before they visit a foreign country.  A simply google search on Peru would reveal this information about the departure tax.

    On the other hand, I have always been fully informed by my airline (if I bought direct) or travel agent about the departure tax, so I was never caught by surprise.  While I tend to agree with Christopher that these “split the difference” resolutions are not optimum, in this case I think it’s appropriate:  Orbitz should have notified him, and the fact that they didn’t put him in a difficult situation worthy of some compensation.  I think the resolution is appropriate.

  13. First off, I have often wondered how online portals provide departure tax information to people who are booking international travel. 

    On all tickets is the breakdown of all taxes paid.  I don’t believe that online bookers get a passenger receipt copy of their ticket, but one is printed on the agency side and it is also in the linear of the pricing record in their PNR.

    It appears that the online company was incorrect to state ‘all’ taxes were paid.  All taxes that can be prepaid were, but departure taxes from Peru can not be collected by the carrier at the time of ticketing.  This not something that we can override in the GDS.  Taxes are not something we have control on or mess with!

    As for Peru, here is a cut and paste from IATA:
    Airport Embarkation Tax
    Airport Tax is levied on passengers embarking on:1. International flights: USD 30.25,- or equivalent in local currency, to be paid only in cash.2. Domestic flights: USD 6.15.- or equivalent in local currency.Place of payment: “Banco Interbank” office at airport of departure.Exempt:1. Transit passengers continuing their journey within 24 hours to a third country.2. Crew travelling on duty.3. Infants under 2 years of age.

    IMHO, due to the incorrect wording at the time of confirmation, the online company should pay the entire amount to the passenger, not 1/2.

  14. He should have been able to check the departure tax on his own.  Lots of places still dont’ have it embedded with the tickets.  He seems to be making a big deal out of orbitz’s wording.  Sad to say but people who get all of their information from a travel agent end up not knowing a lot..

  15. As others have stated it’s common in south american countries to pay for an exit tax in cash at departure. When I left the airport in Buenos Aires I had to pay about $6 as an exit tax.

     

  16. Many South American countries still have the departure tax separate from the airfare, I don’t think Orbitz collected them when he booked his trip, and I don’t think they should have refunded even half.

  17. Pearl

    I respectfully disagree. Many people, like myself, use the internet because if you are booking directly with the travel supplier it remains the most efficient, error free, means of booking a simple trip.  Cost of booking is not a factor

  18. Orbitz is not a travel agency and the people who answer the phone most likely don’t know how to read fares and taxes with all the codes.  International linears can be lengthy. 

    What is at issue is that ‘all taxes paid’ was on the invoice, which was false.

    As a ticketing agent, I have to know the taxes and I also have to check Timatic before any ticket gets issued.  Do online portals provide Timatic so a passenger can check on visa, health and immigration rules before buying that ticket?  Just because you can purchase a ticket, doesn’t mean you may be able to use it!  Timatic does not provide information on departure taxes.

  19. I don’t believe that the departure tax was included in Mr. Castresana’s ticket.  These are not unheard of in many countries and are paid directly to the authorities upon departure.  If he didn’t pay it, then Orbitz’s offer to pay half is more than generous.  I agree that Orbitz should mention the possibility of departure taxes but in the end, IMO, it is always up to the traveler to verify immigration and customs information. 
    See here for more info on this departure tax:

    http://wikitravel.org/en/Peru

  20. I’m adding to my own post because Orbitz clearly has some issues here.  I searched on the online help section for international departure taxes and Orbitz has a lengthy discussion of them for Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Nicaragua but no Peru.  https://faq.orbitz.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/12600/kw/departure%20tax

    In the end, I still believe that the traveler has the burden to verify this information but when Orbitz provides incomplete information, it has a problem, too, which is why they offered to pay half of the fees.  Orbitz is in need of an update.

  21. I disagree…..whether you are doing this online or using a travel agent their is an implicit understanding that the price you are given is for all taxes and fees you would need to pay for the travel.  If it doesnt include all travel and fees then its the responsibility of Orbitz, a travel agent , or whomever you book with to disclose WHAT FEES you may need to pay and for what reason.

    Having to pay a fee like this gives me a bad taste in my mouth….how do you know you really do or its someone trying to scam you.   This is the reason why it is illegal for police for police to collect on a ticket on the spot (though they do intentionally target out of sttate travelers because they know its a more certainty of getting payment in full than someone local who fights the ticket.)

  22. I just returned from Costa Rica, and had to pay a departure tax at the airport.  This is not a tax that is paid with any airline ticket.  People really should do some research BEFORE they travel to a foreign country.  It is not the responsibility of the airline, airport, or travel agency to advise of specific departure taxes.  You can find any of the information by checking with the US State department…or the Counsalate of the country you are traveling too.  C’mon people, do some research on your own trip!

  23. Bodega, thanks for the info. Going to Peru next month and hadn’t had a chance to look up what the fees would be. 

  24. I’m going to say this was more than enough compensation, but my reasoning will, to some degree, depart from others’.

    First, I agree with those who point out that Orbitz is a booking and ticketing agent, not a travel agent.  The site isn’t there to give general travel advice.

    The sticky point, of course, is the “all taxes paid” line.  Granted, I have been aware of these obnoxious departure taxes for years, and my thoughts here are splitting hairs, but I believe Orbitz is telling the truth — all taxes connected to the ticket have been paid.  The departure tax, technically, is a separate item.  And yes, I would say the same about the flat-rate taxes included on other tickets; it’s a matter of the collection mechanism.  As I say, I’m splitting hairs.

    Would it have been nice if Orbitz notified the passenger of the departure taxes?  Of course.  SHOULD they have?  I don’t think the onus is on them.  They collected everything they were responsible for.  Again, they aren’t a travel agent, they’re a ticket agent.

    The fact that the departure tax is still payable only in cash, only at departure time, is definitely a reflection of a country’s failure to advance into the 21st century, but that’s a different topic.

  25. Actually departure taxes are collected on a ticket for many international destinations, so by saying all taxes are paid was incorrect for this particular ticket.  There was still a tax to be paid at the departing airport on the day of departure in local currency.

    Also, just because you paid in full for an international ticket now, doesn’t mean you may not have to pay later down the line if a country increases their tax before you travel.  It is rare, but it has happened.

    I agree that travelers need to do their homework, but where is the responsibility of the company that is selling them their travel arrangements?  I don’t book online, so I don’t know what prompts there are before a purchase is made.  Does it ask if the passport if valid and when it expires?  Does it provide a link for TIMATIC?  You can be turned away at immigration, at your own expense, it you don’t do things right.  Why book with an online company that only takes your money and doesn’t care about the necessary details?   

  26. Departure “taxes” are not included in the ticket in Peru.  You have to have cash and pay as you go.  But my experience is that departure taxes are not due until you leave the country, not on intra-country flights.  I did not have to play from Lima to Cusco.  Did not have to play Cusco to Lima.  Did have to pay Lima to Miami.  I was informed of this when I got my tour info from my tour company which arranged everything but we were not in a group but solo travelers.  It is best to research aiport departure taxes so you’ll have cash saved for your departures. 

  27. I feel like there are too many over-generalizations here, such as “Peru departure taxes are not included in the price of the ticket.”  Yes, they are, if you have booked with certain airlines (from personal experience with American or LAN) and your travel begins in Peru.  There is no “never” or “always” when it comes to this.  As well, if the tax has not been included in the original ticket price it is usually paid to the airline, not the “authorities,” and the airline then issues a boarding pass with a scannable barcode which allows the pax through the turn style into the international departures area. 

    As the international departure tax in Peru is paid to the airline, it can be paid in any method that the airline accepts (in the case of LAN and American, by credit card charged in US dollars, or in cash US dollars or Peruvian soles at the current exchange rate, etc.).

    Whatever happened to “know before you go?”  Even though my company books my travel, I do a minimal bit of research online the first time I’m going to a new country, and all of this information was very easy to find in Feb 2011.  

    I think the OP is lucky to have gotten anything from Orbitz.  Orbitz may have screwed up by printing “all taxes paid,” but the passenger has some responsibility to know what’s up where they’re going, too.

  28. Certain airlines do include the tax in the ticket, including LAN and American, and it can be paid in US dollars cash or credit card directly to the airline in their cases.

  29. Years ago I went to Thailand. I booked tickets from Delta. The tickets were inclusive of air fare, and all usuall taxes and fees, i.e. airport fees, custom and immigration fees, US departure and arrival tax. However, prior to boarding the return flight in Bangkok we had to pay departure tax in cash. Some governments don’t want to deal with air carriers and just prefer to collect departure tax on the spot. I don’t think orbitz should pay or split the tax bill.However, orbitz should have provided some information on its website regarding the additional charges at the airport. But I don’t think many travel agencies have that information. I think if you planning on taking international trip you should try to find as much information on what the country you’re visiting before the trip

  30. My wife is from Peru – she and/or I have flown out of the Lima airport probably a dozen times.  You are charged about $30 as an exit tax, you have to pay this at the airport before you can get to the terminals.  I have bought tickets directly from airlines, as well as Travelocity and Orbitz and I have *never* had this $30 per person fee included in the ticket price.  Never.  The fact that Orbitz is willing to pay half of this guy’s tax astounds me – I wish I could call up Orbitz and get half of my taxes paid.

  31. Mike, it’s because of the “all taxes paid” line in Orbitz’s site. While there is a link to read more details, unfortunately it doesn’t say something like there might be additional taxes to be paid directly at the airport or so.

    And there lies a travel “provider’s” dilemma: when it tries to cater to as many places as possible, there’s a chance an important detail might be overlooked such as this one. Thus, some include something like “additional charges may apply” as a general way to try covering what might not be, albeit that’s obviously not enough for some folks.

  32. Check out the flyertalk.com website – there are a few threads about this topic.  As you will see, AA, DL (and LAN, I think) include the international departure tax in their ticket prices as of sometime in 2010.  They used to put a sticker on the boarding pass showing that the tax had been paid, but now that the turn styles are automated, they print the BP with a bar code that lets you through.

    I have no information about domestic taxes, as I have never had an internal flight in Peru, but I have flown out of Lima to Santiago and Miami over 20 times since 2010 and have only had to pay the tax separately from the ticket once. 

  33. “After I purchased our tickets, beside the price of purchased tickets, it clearly says, ‘all taxes paid’,”

    This is easy as it gets. Orbitz owes the taxes the customer had to pay extra. there should be no splitting the difference of refusal to put anything in writing. Shame on them. 

  34. Lima Jorge Chavez International Airport does indeed have a departure charge.  I have made several trips to Peru over the last couple of years and any trip on a United States Based airline the departure tax has been included in the fair.  The one trip my wife and I made on a certain Panama-based airline, the charge was not included.

    So, with TACA airlines it probably was not included. 

  35. I checked in my GDS and Taca collects the departure taxes on the routings this passenger flew.  This is where having a passenger receipt copy, which I staple to all itineraries and give to clients is helpful.  The breakdown of all taxes paid is right there, so you have proof of payment.  What do online companies give you or where can you access the fare and tax breakdown in your reservation?  If they don’t provide that, why not?  I certainly would be questioning them on this!

  36. Based on my own experience with TACA, I have little doubt that they are ultimately at fault here.

  37. It’s called “Traveling in Latin America.”  Americans have a target on their back and it’s green.  You don’t board the aircraft?  So frickin what, sit it out in the airport gringo. 

    They should have been glad the total was only $84.

  38. > On all tickets is the breakdown of all taxes paid.

    Which company is issuing tickets with that included?  Haven’t seen it myself.

  39. Taxes on a ticket are for the airfare only. Entry and Exit taxes are not part of the airfare ticket.  Some countries do not allow it to be part of a ticket and want cash. Orbitz should not have to pay someone’s taxes.

  40. And how does a website know what nationality the ticket purchaser is? Some entry and exit taxes are in accord to the nationality of the traveler. They are not a transportation tax, or part of the ticket. Everyone wants someone else to pay their way.  Will you pay my social security tax this year?

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