Flybe Slams UK’s Office of Fair Trading for “Sanctioning Blatant Disregard of Continued Debit Card Charging”

Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline has issued a statement claiming that the Office of Fair Trading is failing to clamp down on airlines that it believes are disregarding an OFT
The Flybe statement says that passengers are “being duped on so-called ‘transparent low-cost’ ticket prices,” and that the OFT is effectively “sanctioning [the] blatant disregard of continued debit card charging.”  Flybe points out that in April 2012 it became the first airline to stop charging debit card fees to customers booking flights following an OFT request for change.
The OFT had started the process some 12 months ago and, Flybe says, “In February this year put significant pressure on airlines to officially undertake to remove debit card charges by early summer.
“Most other airlines followed Flybe’s lead and complied with the request soon after, ceasing this charging practice between spring and summer.”  However, Flybe claims there are “some very obvious exceptions:”
The Flybe statement says: “Aer Lingus signed undertakings to the OFT that they would not charge an additional debit card fee from October 1 [2012].  Not only did they appear to need seven months to make the change on their website, but as of October 8 [2012] it continues to charge customers an additional £6 per one-way sector.
“Equally easyJet was given until December by the OFT to make the change, some 10 months after the undertakings were intended to be signed.
“Put into context, a consumer can now go to one of the non-complying airline websites and see a fare that is, say, £6 cheaper than Flybe’s on a particular route where in competition with Flybe, without realising that the fare doesn’t yet include a £9 ‘admin fee’ for paying
with a debit card.
“Similarly, consumers visiting certain flight comparison sites can also receive a false impression of the lowest possible fares as they will not include such payment charge add-ons and are therefore not a fair comparison.”
Andrew Strong, Flybe UK MD commented: “It’s a total shambles.  Some of Europe’s
largest airlines, with the most powerful IT departments, are being allowed to continue to blatantly abuse the process.  Consumers are being duped into thinking that there is some sort of level playing field when comparing ticket prices.
“Media reports that airlines have become ‘transparent’ in their ticket pricing are false.  They ignore the fact that several leading airlines are still continuing to charge for debit card payments.”
Flybe says it has, “made its views known to the OFT and has also shared the information with [product-testing consumer organisation] Which? who are equally concerned by the current situation and the impact it has on the lack of clarity for customers,” adding,
“this unacceptable situation is not in the interest of Fair Trading.”
Anna Knowles, easyJet’s UK Corporate Communications Manager told Airports International, “easyJet does not have a debit card fee.  In January easyJet made a series of changes which removed debit card charges and ensured that the airline’s admin fee, which is charged per booking, is included in the price offered in all advertising and from the first stage of the booking process.  These changes were welcomed by both Which? and the OFT.
“On December 1, 2012, easyJet will be making further enhancements to ensure our admin fee is included in all grid prices making our pricing even more transparent.”
To date, Airports International has been unable to obtain a reply from Aer Lingus.