Stop Flight Price Deceit

Cape Town - There's a type of Wild West mentality in the South African travel industry which is exploiting consumers by not spelling out the total costs of flights in advertisements, and by also downplaying hidden costs as taxes.

This is the view of Stephan Ekbergh, Swedish chief executive of the International online travel agency Travelstart. He opened a Travelstart office in Cape Town three years ago.

"SAA's return flight between Cape Town and Heathrow Airport in London, for instance, costs a reasonable R6 500 - until one realises at the end of the booking process that the price jumps to R9 421 because of hidden taxes, levies and fuel surcharge," Ekbergh explains.

The lack of transparency in online and printed advertisements is, in his view, damaging the local travel industry because of the distrust being fostered among consumers.

A Travelstart public opinion poll among 9 000 travellers indicates that 99.2% of them would prefer to see the full price from the outset.

In November last year legislation was introduced in Europe that makes transparency in advertised prices for flights compulsory, and Ekbergh would like to see the South African government doing the same.

"The South African travel industry is living in a cocoon because there are only a couple of large players. It is therefore necessary to protect consumers from misrepresentation," he argues.

Another trend he cautions against is the South African travel industry's unnecessary propensity to demand sky-high prices.

"Why was it necessary for a top-class hotel in Cape Town to ask me whether or not I was a South African citizen to determine what a room would cost me?

"And why do flights in economy class suddenly cost R30 000 during the World Cup soccer tournament?"

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