Unearthing travel fees

Website compiles airline and hotel charges that aren’t included in advertised rate

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

High on the aggravation list for anyone who travels is the growing number of fees airlines and hotels add to customers’ bills.

To try to help the public avoid any last-minute surprises, a longtime travel executive developed a website to teach people about the hidden costs.

Bill Maloney, a former transportation sales and marketing official, recently launched FeeZing. The beta version features databases of airline fees, as well as ancillary charges for hotels in Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla. Maloney said he is days away from launching a fee list for California hotels.

Travel fees have boomed with the popularity of the Internet and cheap online travel booking websites. Many resorts use fees to try to make up revenue they lose from third-party bookings online.

“It’s a growing issue, particularly on the hotel side,” Maloney said. “The airlines are regulated, and the Department of Transportation has established rules for how information on fees is presented to the public. But there aren’t any regulatory agencies monitoring hotels. And resort fees that cover everything from hotel amenities to parking are spreading.”

Maloney focused first on hotels in Las Vegas and Orlando because they are the largest tourist destinations in the United States. By the end of summer, he hopes to publish lists for three more cities, with information about 10 cities available by year’s end.

On the website, users can type in the name of a hotel, and a list of fees pops up on screen.

FeeZing notes, for example, that the LVH has an $18 daily resort fee, a $35 fee for a rollaway bed and a $14 fee for more than one Internet device (web browsing for a single phone or computer is included in the resort fee). Guests also are charged for a night if they cancel a reservation.

FeeZing also lists airline fees, which have been a hot topic since baggage charges were introduced in 2008.

Las Vegas is home to Allegiant Air, one of the fee kings, and is a top growth destination for Spirit Airlines, which also generates high revenues with fees. On the other hand, Southwest Airlines, with its “bags fly free” program, is McCarran International Airport’s busiest carrier.

Maloney predicts that Southwest may come under pressure to cave on the free luggage policy as it absorbs AirTran and shareholders demand higher profits. Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly has said “never say never” to bag charges.

If that happens, Maloney will be ready to add it to the FeeZing site.

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