While Canadian carriers are contributing to the bottom-line cost confusion, in the United States and other jurisdictions the ability to compare one airline price to another is approaching impossible proportions. It would take a mathematician to figure out comparisons with the proliferation of ancillary charges.
It was not that far back when purchasing a seat from an airline was as simple as calling a travel agent or booking online at a price that included checked bags, lunch, pillows, blankets and any seat you desired that was available at the time of booking.
Alas, those days of simplicity may be gone forever as the creative geniuses in the boardrooms of the major airlines create confusion and complexity.
In the United States today, airlines will not only have varying charges for checked-in baggage, but different prices will exist depending upon whether you check in online or in person.
Booking a seat in advance is no longer a simple matter. Prices vary depending upon where you sit. Carry-on bags are becoming the new charge norm, but even that isn't all that simple. The size of the carry-on may dictate pricing.
It will cost you more for a telephone reservation than doing it online. Those who book online at the major agency websites often are not even aware of the multiple extra costs they face. The booking agency is simply selling a straightforward ticket. The extras are lumped together in a small-print warning statement.
It all comes under a category the airlines call unbundling, a menu-driven strategy that theoretically allows you to go without extra services and amenities if you want the lowest ticket price. But most industry analysts agree the extent to which air carriers have taken the concept works against the best interests of the consumer.
A recent analysis worked out a matrix over a couple of scenarios. A couple flying on a single major U.S airline will have 64 different variations for baggage fees alone.
Airline auxiliary fees are not industry standard, so to do an accurate comparison you would have to research each separately, taking into account the varying charges between each airline you are considering. In trying to do that, you could be facing more than 4,000 different options, according to the analyst's calculations.
It seems to me it's time airlines realize consumers are willing to face the real price of travel in a mature manner. The hide-and-seek approach the industry has taken has only caused travellers to lose respect for airline companies.
And since their strategy has continued to result in huge financial losses and low share prices for the industry worldwide, it seems to me they have nothing to lose now by taking a new and approach: honesty and clarity.