Yesterday we were reminded that despite rapidly-falling fuel prices, transportation companies continue to gouge travellers with so-called fuel surcharges.
This came to our attention as we tried to book a round-trip promotional fare on the Victoria Clipper from Victoria-Seattle. Of a base fare of $93, Clipper Vacations was happy to charge an extra $8 as a fuel charge - almost 10% of the fare. (We reached out to Clipper Vacations are are awaiting their response).
Now, maybe Clipper Vacations deserves some credit for being transparent and actually calling the fee a 'fuel surcharge.' Other carriers, such as Air Canada, slap customers with hefty, mysterious 'career surcharges' that can add hundreds of dollars to a ticket.
For example, a recent round-trip booking from Victoria to Dubai on Air Canada in Premium Economy clicked in at $5,369. Of that $436 was identified as a 'carrier surcharge."
Air Canada is not alone - most other airlines do likewise, identifying the add-ons as 'carrier-imposed fee' or 'carrier imposed charges.'
There is some good news in the cruise industry. Carnival Cruise Line, for example, has eliminated its fuel surcharge on all voyages. However the company says on its website that it "reserves the right to charge a fuel supplement of up to $9.00 per person per day, without prior notice, in the event that the price of light sweet crude oil according to the NYMEX is greater than $70 per barrel of oil. Celebrity, Costa, Cunard, Holland America and other major lines have similar conditions.
It might be worth noting that the express shipping companies are also very much in the business of charing fuel surcharges. UPS, for example, hits customers with an extra 4.25% on air and international shipments - but this is dropping to 3% as of Feb. 1.
With oil slipping to $35-a-barrel, it's time regulators cracked down on transportation companies and demand that they at least break-out their add-on fees.