Why you may see more travel costs this summer

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When it comes to travel expenses, it’s starting to look like 2019 again.

Airlines, car rental companies and hotels are reinstating old surcharges and adding new ones to your bill as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels. You can find them everywhere, including your plane ticket and your vacation rental.

“Fees have always been part of the travel experience,” says Peter Vlitas, executive vice president of partner relations at Internova Travel Group, a travel agency. “But as travel comes back in full force, consumers are starting to see more of it.”

As for airlines, Vlitas says his agency has seen higher surcharges, fewer free checked-baggage offers, and tighter enforcement of carry-on baggage sizes at airports. Mandatory resort fees, which many hotels easily waived for guests during the pandemic, are also back. He even noticed an increase in unexplained hotel surcharges. Additionally, car rental companies are increasing their early return fees and refueling fees.

Why do travel agencies do this? It’s not just because they lost billions during the pandemic when Americans stayed home or took vacations. Their cost of doing business has increased. Restaurants have had to pay higher wages or face mass resignations. Airlines and hotels have had to spend more on sanitation and contactless check-in technology. And now there is inflation.

“They need to find a way to offset their extra covid costs,” says Narendra Khatri, director of Underbuy, a travel insurance company. “A lot of times that translates into additional fees.”

Hertz may have the most criticized travel costs in the time of the pandemic. When Paula Gill called the company recently to change her reservation, a rep said she would add an extra $50 — 5% of her rental cost — if she wanted to handle the change over the phone.

“No way,” says Gill, a retired human resources consultant from Trappe, Pennsylvania. “That may be how they think they’ll get out of bankruptcy, but that’s no way to treat customers.”

Hertz says other travel companies charge similar fees. “This is in line with similar travel industry policies, such as airlines and hotels, for making reservations over the phone, and encourages customers to book through our website at no additional cost, where our best rates can be found. found,” Hertz spokeswoman Lauren Luster said. .

But for now, no other major car rental company does. Gill bypassed the company’s reservations center and called the rental car company directly, avoiding the charges.

Hotels are also getting creative with their new rates. Bob Bacheler recently stayed at a convention hotel in Orlando. After breakfast, his waiter handed him and his wife a bill with a 10% “service charge” on top of an 18% automatic tip.

“I’m used to tips for big parties, but two people?” says Bacheler, CEO of flying angels, a medical travel service. “I still don’t know what the 10% service charge for the meal was for. Just a tax paid by the hotel? »

Bacheler felt like he had no choice but to pay the fee, but he says he will ask before having his next breakfast at the hotel.

“We may not be able to control these fee increases,” says Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO of Visitor coveragean insurance market, “but you have options.”

Knowing that companies are trying to make up for lost revenue is the first step to avoiding nuisance fees. Many travelers mistakenly assume that airlines and hotels are desperate to get them back and have cut prices to get them in. That may have been true last summer, and it was certainly true during the summer of 2020. But not now.

Sergio Diaz recently checked into a full-service hotel in Los Angeles, where a representative informed him that he would have to pay a $50 cleaning fee.

“The challenge with fees like that is that hotels bury them in the fine print,” says Diaz, CEO of Keynote Speakers, a talent agency. “Then, because we’re in such a rush to get to our destination, we don’t have time to argue, so we pay.”

Fees may be justified in some situations, given higher levels of inflation. For example, the cost of cleaning a vacation rental rose about 18% on average, to almost $61 for a one-bedroom property during the fourth quarter of last year, according to TurnoverBnB, a site specializing in vacation rental cleaning. Still, according to vacation rental customers, fee increases have more than kept pace.

Now is the time to read the terms before your travel purchase, insiders say.

“That incredible deal you just made on your hotel may be due to the lack of services included in the price,” warns Prasun Choudhary, president of the hotel chain. OYO International. “Check with hotel staff to see what additional amenities are included with your purchase.”

You can fight these new fees. If a travel company does not properly disclose the surcharge or notify you after your purchase, then you have good reason to remove the surcharge from your bill. Emailing an executive or contacting the company on social media can also be effective tools. If these tactics don’t work, ask your bank for help in disputing the charges on your credit card. You have 60 days to file your dispute.

But for now, it looks like the travel industry is moving full speed ahead on new fees. And experts say they’re everywhere.

“You need to be diligent in your budgeting efforts,” says Steve Schwab, CEO of a vacation rental company. casago. “Additional charges at hotels, car rental companies, or at the airport can add up when you don’t expect them.”

This seems to be part of the travel industry’s pricing strategy this year. Hardly anyone expects extras, so what better time to give them to your customers? But now you know.

Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advice can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDCs travel health advice webpage.

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