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Comparing the cost of booking travel tickets on-line 19 March 2008

The Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading has recently conducted a survey of charges made by air and sea carriers operating from the Isle of Man to consumers using debit cards and credit cards when booking on-line.

The Office noted a considerable difference in the charges made by the different carriers. A number of carriers did not make a charge for the use of debit cards whereas others charged up to £1 each way per person. Only one carrier did not make a charge for the use of a credit card. All others made a charge. Some charged a standard booking fee whereas others made a charge per passenger each way. A chart showing the actual amounts charged by the carriers is attached to this Media Release. This shows a family of 4 on a return journey paying up to £8.00 for the use of a debit card and up to £24.00 for using a credit card.

Companies that provide a debit or credit card payment service to consumers are charged by the card providers for the facility. However the fact that the carriers are charged does not account for the wide variation in charges made to consumers. It should be remembered that paying for your journey by credit card (provided the cost is more than £100) may provide you with protection should the airline go into bankruptcy.

The Office is keen to work with carriers to ensure that advertised prices are not misleading. It is however keen to raise public awareness of the issue and to alert customers of the cheapest way of paying for their tickets.

Chairman of the Office of Fair Trading, Quintin Gill MHK, commented “The imposition of a debit card or credit card charge has almost become standard practice in the travel industry both here and in the United Kingdom. I know that most consumers are used to dealing with businesses that include all the costs in the advertised price so I am keen to make sure that people are alerted to the range of charges made. I would advise people to keep a close eye out for these charges, which could add significantly to the cost of their journey. We have recently introduced a new code of practice on price marking and the UK is bringing in regulations implementing an EU directive in May this year. We will be continuing to work on the transparency of pricing to try to make sure that non-optional surcharges are included in the price.

We receive a number of complaints about the difficulties of booking travel tickets on line. The advertised prices should be available but travellers need to book carefully; unless you wish to, there is no need to pay extra for a specific seat or for the carrier’s travel insurance. Carriers have differing policies as to what they charge extra for and consumers need to take care when working out the total cost of their travel plans and comparing the benefits offered by each carrier. It really is a case of think before you click. We will be happy to advise consumers further if they wish to contact us”.

Table 1 - charges applied for paying online

Card charge detailsDebit cardCredit cardNotes
Euromanx£1 pp each way£3 pp each way 
Manx 2£0.99 pp each way£2.95 pp each wayVisa Electron is free
Flybe£0.99 pp each way (min fee £1.50 pb)£2.50 pp each way (min fee £4.98 pb) Visa Electron is free
Aer Arran£1 pb£4.50 pbDiners, Amex £5.50 pb
VLM£4 pb£4 pb 
Loganair/BANo charge£3.50 pp pb 
Eastern AirwaysNo charge£4 pb 
Steam PacketNo charge£3 pb 
Blue IslandsNo chargeNo charge 

pp - per person

pb - per booking

Table 2 - card costs for 1 person return journey

 Debit cardCredit card
Manx 2£1.98£5.90
Aer Arran£1.00£4.50
Eastern Airways£0.00£4.00
Steam Packet£0.00£3.00
Blue Islands£0.00£0.00

Table 3 - card costs for 4 person return journey

 Debit cardCredit card
Manx 2£7.92£23.60
Aer Arran£1.00£4.50
Eastern Airways£0.00£4.00
Steam Packet£0.00£3.00
Blue Islands£0.00£0.00

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