Airlines ground online ticket price gouging

Postcode discrimination eliminated, EC asserts

Price discrimination in the sale of airline tickets online is no longer a problem in Europe, the European Commission confidently asserted today.

Last year the Commission received numerous complaints from citizens who felt that they had been discriminated against when buying plane tickets purely because of where they lived in Europe. Internet sales were a particular focus of complaints. Depending on their country of residence, some consumers were quoted widely different prices for identical tickets. Price differences were as high as 300 per cent were recorded.

In December 2003, the Commission wrote to 18 European airlines, asking each of them whether it charged different prices for exactly the same ticket depending on the customer‘s country of residence, and if so, why.

By the end of April, the Commission had received answers from 16 airlines of the 18 it contacted. Most companies said their prices were the same irrespective of the home country of a passenger. Several carriers admitted that did applying pricing differences but said that these "restrictions" have now been eliminated. Test bookings showed that the restrictions observed last year had been nixed.

The price differences previously recorded have "mostly disappeared", the Commission reports, except for rare cases involving paper-based tickets. And some differences in handling fees for Net-based tickets. As a result, price levels are now similar for all EU residents.

The Commission said it will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that price discrimination because of residence does not raise its ugly head again.

Which is nice. ®

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