Some airlines have taken drip pricing into the stratosphere. It takes a truly canny consumer to make their way through a Jetstar booking without being led into paying for extras.

Air New Zealand was recently forced to remove its pre-selected travel insurance policy after a warning from the Commerce Commission, but Jetstar is standing its ground.

The commission said at the time it preferred all companies to use an “opt-in” approach when selling add-on products to consumers online, to avoid any possibility of breaching the Fair Trading Act.

It is looking at Jetstar but so far the airline is opting out of listening.

So what happens when you book online with Jetstar? I’ve just been through the process. What should be simple isn’t, because at nearly every step you’re offered an extra.

I booked the cheapest flights from Wellington to Auckland return. I wanted carry-on luggage only. Immediately after you choose that, a box pops up explaining more expensive options, supposedly what’s most popular (read more expensive), and a further even more expensive option. You stick with your cheapest carry-on luggage, but you are required to de-select luggage three times again.

You are also required to de-select seats (extra $10 if you miss it) and de-select insurance ($10.95). On the way, you’re also forced to look at accommodation and car rental options.

The only payment not pre-selected is the save the world option – carbon offsetting.

Once through the maze, you get to pay and are then pinged with the credit card surcharge if you don’t hold one of the airline’s chosen cards.

After warning Air New Zealand, Commerce Commission chair Dr Mark Berry said consumers were perfectly capable of deciding for themselves whether they wanted to pay for additional products or services. If a company is concerned that its customers need insurance then a suitable approach is to require them to tick “yes” or “no” in a mandatory field and leave it in their hands.

Well spoken.

Take our poll about “opt-out” pricing practices and see our template for a letter to Jetstar.

About the author:

Sue Chetwin has been our Chief Executive since April 2007 after more than 25 years in print journalism. She was formerly the Editor of Sunday News, Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday. She says there are strong parallels between consumer advocacy and journalism.

Sue oversees all of Consumer’s operations and is also the public face of the organisation. Sue is a director of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, an alternate on the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commission and a member of the Electricity Authority Retail Advisory group.