Airlines pass buck to fliers with new fees

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Airlines pass buck to fliers with new fees

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Mr. Lee, the 43-year-old CEO of a small company, often flies on low cost carriers (LCC) to save money during business trips.

But on his latest trip to Tokyo in April, he was surprised to learn that Jin Air was charging him an extra 35,000 won ($29) for his 20 kilogram (44 pound) baggage, claiming it was overweight.

That hadn’t been the case a year earlier, when Lee took the same flight with an almost identical bag.

He didn’t know it, but the free baggage allowance had been lowered to 15 kilograms from 20 kilograms last October. He had to pay an extra 7,000 won per additional kilogram of baggage.

“Even the LCCs are passing on more of their costs to customers,” Lee said with a sigh.

With everyone from the nation’s giants like Korean Air and Asiana Airlines to low cost carriers (LCCs) such as Jeju Air, Jin Air, Air Busan, T’way Air and Eastar Jet competing to offer the cheapest ticket prices, most have opted to make up the cost difference through extra charges.

Free baggage allowances have been reduced while airlines have introduced fees for those who miss their flights. Even flight mileage point services have been scaled down.

“Customers were confused since the charges for extra baggage differed by each flight route, so we made it clearer by charging based on destinations,” said a spokesman from Jin Air, the LCC wing of Korean Air.

That move may have made things clearer for consumers, but it also involved a price hike.

For example, the extra baggage charge for flights bound for Japan used to range from 3,700 won to 6,100 won per kilogram depending on the routes, but it’s now 7,000 won for all routes.

Flights bound for the Clark Intenrational Airport and Cebu in the Philippines now have an extra baggage charge of 10,000 won per kilogram, which used to max out at 9,100 won.

Carriers have also begun penalizing customers who don’t show up for their flights.

Asiana Airlines started charging no-show customers on international flights 100,000 won last month. Air Busan followed from early this month, charging 50,000 won. Jin Air, which had already been charging no-shows, raised its penalty to 100,000 won from 10,000 as part of several reforms in October. Korean Air, T’way Air and Eastar Jet are also reviewing plans to penalize such customers.

“We fly with four to five seats empty on international flights because of no-show customers. Of course there are losses for the company but it’s also inconvenient for other potential passengers who were more than eager to take that seat,” said a spokesman from Asiana Airlines. “The charges are to establish a good order among all customers using air carriers.”

Customers also should watch out when they book flights through mileage points. Korean Air will be charging customers 30,000 won if they change reservations after either booking or upgrading their seats using their mileage points from August next year. There were no such charges before.

Other examples of ways LCCs are making more money off customers include charging for in-flight meal on international flights, which used to be free.

T’Way Air started charging for all meals from January this year, while Jeju Air did so 2014 and Eastar Jet followed in June last year.

Industry insiders say the competition between air carriers to have the lowest-possible ticket prices have resulted in the shifting of the price burden.

“Surging popularity for LCCs has led to these fire sales on flight tickets and this led to various other fees that are less visible to customers,” said Kang Jeong-hwa, president of the Consumers Union of Korea. “Air carriers must thoroughly inform their customers, but customers also have to be more thorough in the details of their flight tickets.”


BY KIM KI-HWAN [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]







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