To attract more customers, travel companies have aggressively cut their rates. But what's not included in those prices? You'd be surprised. , a hospitality industry analyst for PKF Consulting in Atlanta, says companies used to think of extra fees as "found money," and were willing to waive them. "Now they're counting on them." Here's what you can expect-and avoid:
- Airlines: Security fees and fuel surcharges are nonnegotiable. But carriers are also clamping down on that kindly ticket agent who looks the other way when you incur a $100 fee for a ticket change.
How to steer clear: Flaunt your frequent-flier status. Airline employees would sooner work the red-eye than lose you as a customer.
- Hotels: Properties are hitting you hard with surcharges on everything from energy costs to amorphous "resort" fees. One of the most lucrative fees, says Mandelbaum, is the overpriced hotel phone, which can account for 2 percent of hotel revenues.
- How to steer clear: Ask before you use anything, and don't be afraid to dispute a charge on your credit card. Faced with a protracted battle with your bank, a hotel manager will often cave in.
- Rental cars: Car rental companies now impose a fee to offset the cost of parking tickets and tags. Nebulous "airport fees" cover a multitude of expenses, including use of the bus or monorail.
- How to steer clear: Keep a printout of your price quote. If you can prove the company didn't disclose the fee, it should waive it.
Christopher Elliott is a writer and commentator and the editor of www.elliott.org.