April 8 2009 by Chris McGinnis
As much as business travelers tug on one end of their travel dollars, suppliers are tugging just as much on the other. That means travelers need to be on the lookout for new fees. In a recent TripAdvisor poll of 5,000 travelers, 34 percent said they are facing more hidden fees than they did last year.
AIRLINES: By now, you've heard all about the nearly universal $15 fee for the first checked bag. But did you know that on most airlines, you now pay $150 to change your ticket...whether you bought it or redeemed frequent flyer miles for it? Here's a helpful chart from Kayak.com that should help you keep track.
CAR RENTAL: In recent months, car rental companies have followed airlines in this fee-for-all. According to a recent column by Chris Elliott on MSNBC, travelers should be aware of new cancellation fees of up to $50 on pre-paid rentals, "energy fees" to offset the cost of utilities, fuel for shuttle buses, oil and grease, or additional driver fees of $9 per day if someone other than the renter gets behind the wheel.
HOTELS: I can't ignore the fact that hotels are tacking on new fees, too. Watch out for those irritating "resort fees" of up to $25 per day when checking in at "resorts." I hate it when I park my car in the hotel garage (for as much as $45 per day) and then realize I could have parked on the street for nothing. And why is it that the most expensive hotels are the ones that seem to sneak in those $10 to $20 fees for internet access? I'm now hearing that some hotels charge to deliver a morning newspaper to your door, unless you specifically ask them not to when you check in.
This is where I have to give kudos to Best Western and their promise not to nickel and dime customers to death. (See what I mean with its new Business Plus program.) At a recent meeting in New York, I heard Best Western's VP of Marketing & Sales Dorothy Dowling say, "The folio our customers see at check in is nearly always identical to the bill they see when they check out." And I think she means it.