Consumer groups welcome UK move to ban credit card charges which can add significantly to a holidaymaker's bill when booking flights.
The British government's decision to ban travel companies from charging credit and debit card fees has been rightly heralded by consumer groups as a "victory for travellers".
It is air passengers who have suffered most as a result of these iniquitous charges. Over the past seven years Ryanair has increased its credit and debit card charges 15-fold to £12 ($A18.50) per return flight, when the true cost of such a transaction is as little as 20p (30 cents) when using a debit card.
But what people often forget is that this fee is charged per passenger, so when a family of four books a return trip to Spain a charge of £48 ($A74) is added just for the privilege of paying by card.
Thankfully, the government has finally taken action and plans to introduce legislation to ban these fees by the end of next year. Card charges have been a regular source of complaints, while more than 50,000 people supported a campaign by Which?, the consumer watchdog, which has labelled the decision a "huge victory" for British holidaymakers.
Some analysts have ventured that the move has been prompted by a belated recognition in Whitehall of the damage that ever rising flight taxes is doing to British passengers' ability to travel and the economy – Air Passenger Duty, which is paid by every passenger departing from the UK, has risen 333 per cent in seven years.
Others suggest that it is merely the Government wanting to announce a piece of populist legislation on the eve of Christmas. Either way, the move is welcome.
Ryanair maintains that it has always offered British passengers a way to avoid these credit and debit card fees. Pay with a Ryanair pre-loadable "Cash Passport" MasterCard and you pay nothing, it claims. Well, nothing, except an "inactivity" fee of £2.50 per month, if you fail to use the card for six months, a £4 charge to withdraw money at banks or bureaux de change, a £2 fee for withdrawals at an ATM and a 50p charge for all other transactions, including a £10 charge if you overspend.
The card costs £6 to obtain and you also have to pay to take money off the card. So what are you waiting for?
The Irish carrier is not alone in applying such charges. For more than a decade, low-cost airlines have relied on the fact that by the time you come to enter your card details you are so far down the booking process that - through gritted teeth - you tend to pay the extra taxes and charges, which can often dwarf the cost of the flight itself.
Flybe charges £9 return per passenger for using a debit card and £11 for a credit card, while easyJet charges £8 per booking (as opposed to per passenger), but both waive the fee for those using a Visa Electron. By way of comparison, British Airways charges nothing for using debit cards and imposes a £4.50 fee per credit card transaction.
Australian airlines also charge passengers for making bookings. Tiger Airways charges $7.50 per sector or $15 return - which means on a $150 return fare passengers can end up paying an additional 10 per cent in debit or credit card fees.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which? is urging airlines not to drag their feet over the new ruling.
"While the law will come into force at the end of 2012, we want companies to be upfront and fair over card charges today," he said.
Yes, and while they are at it, if they could just ban those check-in bag fees of up to £100 return online, the name change fee of £220 return, the £20 charge to pick a seat, the £80 charge to travel with sports equipment and the £40 infant fee, then it really would be a merry Christmas for the travelling public.
- The Telegraph, London