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More Smoke and Mirrors

Angry People

AITO are very upset. Travel agents are out to rip off customers by charging credit card fees. The UK Government has put a stop to it. (AITO represent many small and independent operators and agents)

Not quite. The EU have put a stop to it, of course; the UK Government just decided to take a free ride on this action. AITO are upset because once again, travel agents come in for a hammering without a shred of explanation - let alone evidence.

Credit card charges are, of course, part and parcel of the "nickel and dime" excercises that many airlines, car rental firms, tour operators and add-on services have taken to a new art form. Car firms are renowned for (and I use this term reservedly) "marking up" repairs - charging for scratches and dents that could easily be resolved by what the car industry calls "a mop" and heavy selling insurance. Currency conversion to a more-or-less captive audience at an airport, is another area of concern.

Nearly all of these charges come about for one reason and one reason alone - the desire to be able to show the lowest price. That many people do not travel at anything like the lowest price, seems to be ignored. Margins for on and offline agents have become very restricted and so, any additional charge throughout the sale process, such as credit card charges, do materially affect the level of profitability. There is the question, of course, as to the need for credit card firms to charge anyone for taking credit cards. After all, credit card firms' customers are paying significant amounts to access credit.

There is also the issue of price: "I want to charge that price. I cannot make enough money at that price, the problem must lie in our distribution cost". Many moons ago, charging for seats or bags or scams involving car "damage" were (relatively) unheard of. Duty free at airports was duty free and staff were abundant in supply and had a good, holistic understanding of travel.

Fact of the matter is, travel, in general is not a cheap product to supply or sell. Supply needs expensive kit to action and the sales process involves people with significant product (and geographical) knowledge. There are significant costs and it is also not unreasonable to ask that anyone in the supply chain should be allowed to make a fair and reasonable profit.

Travel has always suffered from "cheapness syndrome". For why, I know not. As I always say: People have no "right" to cheap travel, any more than I have a "right" to a cheap Ferrari.

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