When Sylvia Dawson tried to book airline tickets from New York to London for a group traveling next month, she was taken aback by the fare.
“We were told by Virgin Atlantic that there would be a fuel surcharge of $98 per person,” she says.
Dawson isn’t a novice who would be shocked by news like that. She’s a travel agent who specializes in tours to England, and books a lot of flights over the pond. The reservation was for a group of 20 clients headed to the U.K. on a tour.
“We know that the price of oil has skyrocketed,” she says. “But this group has been booked with Virgin since the beginning of the year. It seems that the increase is somewhat over the top.”
Worse, her group couldn’t pull out of the trip without incurring heavy penalties. The airline had them over a barrel, figuratively speaking. Either they would pay 14 percent more for the price of their tickets or lose their vacations.
Fuel surcharges are a peculiar thing. On domestic flights, the price of fuel must be included in the base fare quoted to passengers. But international flights aren’t regulated the same way, and an airline can quote a low base fare but then add a “fuel surcharge” later.
Is Virgin Atlantic out of line?