When should an airline tell you about fees? Survey says …

The sooner, the better.

A survey of 651 readers found an overwhelming majority (80.2 percent) believe airlines or travel agents should quote an “all-in” price that includes any optional fees that traditionally were part of the ticket, such as a fee for the first checked bag or the ability to reserve a seat, when they ask for a fare quote.

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A smaller number (17.4 percent) were content to wait until they were done shopping, but before they booked their tickets. Only 2.3 percent say it’s OK to show the total price when they’re ready to buy the ticket. And 0.2 percent — a single respondent — thought the fees should never be revealed.

The results are particularly interesting in light of the fact that airlines could collect as much as $10 billion in ancillary fees this year, which would be a record.

The airline industry is lobbying to change a proposed law so that they would only have to reveal a total price at the end of the booking process. It would not require them to reveal a price that includes the legacy amenities, like seat reservations and the first checked bag. Ever.

That would run contrary to the will of their customers.

In other words, it’s almost impossible to disclose fees (especially fees that were traditionally part of the airline ticket) too early in the reservation process.

Airlines say this disclosure would cost them business. Perhaps they’re right. But lying to passengers about the true cost of their ticket will cost them even more business in the long run.

Just wait. You’ll see.

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