Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Finding a good air fare can be taxing

When Cassie and I debated whether or not to go to London over Thanksgiving last year (we did), our indecision continually wavered as we searched for reasonable air fares. Time and again, we kept coming across $99 one-way fare specials between New York and London, but we never seemed to be able to find flights that offered that fare.

Or so we thought.

The reasonable person would expect a $99 one-way fare to come out somewhere in the low $200s after taxes. So when we kept getting final after-tax fares closer to $500, we thought we just weren't getting the special fares. But when we looked more closely, we were. The $198 base round-trip fare came out to about $450 when all the taxes, fees and surcharges got factored in.

At first, we couldn't believe it. Could all of the miscellaneous fees really add up to more than the actual fare? The answer was a bitter "yes." I had to dig like a 49er looking for a nugget of gold to find an itemization of the fees, but what I found didn't explain why there were so many different fees.

On a whim, I just checked Virgin Atlantic's site for its current air fares, and I found a $189 one-way fare special (with an asterisk, of course). At least they've gotten a bit more transparent: in the fine print on the very same page, they state that "all passengers must pay the applicable airport taxes, air passenger duties and the September 11th security charges of approximately $250.00." So that $378 fare will actually cost me about $628. I'm no economist, but that calculates out to taxes and miscellaneous fees of 66%.

I think I'm better off just going to the bookstore and buying a book about London. At least I'll only be taxed at a relatively inconsequential 8.375% rate.



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