Costs for Domestic Travel increases which is likely to hinder tourism: Council

11/06/2010 15:32

The Consumer Council of Fiji wants Pacific Sun to re-look at its baggage policy as it disadvantages international travellers, especially tourists through inconvenience and unnecessary costs. In April 2010, Pacific Sun revised its baggage policy for connecting flights which not only affects Air Pacific passengers but also passengers using other airlines such as Jet Star, Air New Zealand to name a few.

Air Pacific passengers travelling economy class to/from USA/Canada connecting to Pacific Sun will be allowed 1 piece (23kg) although the passengers carry 2 piece baggage of 23 kg each for international flight. The Pacific Sun passengers will be charged for the 2nd piece at $FJ 60.00 per piece. For Nadi-Suva-Nadi travel, economy class passengers from USA/Canada will end up paying $120 for 2nd baggage plus approx $240 fare which adds up to $360.00.

Also affected are business and economy class passengers travelling by other airlines (Jet star, Air New Zealand, V Australia) connecting to Pacific Sun for domestic travel will be only allowed to carry 15kg rather than 23 kg for economy and 30kg for business class passengers. In other words passengers will have to pay for 8kg or 15kg respectively.

Furthermore, tourists are not the only travellers. There are government officials  who also travel using the most economical airfares. Pacific Sun’s limit of 15kg baggage means that Government will now have to fork out extra money to pay for baggage charges of civil servants on duty travel using other airlines such as Korean Airlines or Jet Star. The Domestic Baggage policy is restricting consumers to take advantage of deregulation of airlines which has resulted in lower fares for international travel.

The Council believes this policy is not fair because it’s an extra cost for consumers who are already paying exorbitant airfares for domestic travel. The Council understands that Pacific Sun is a subsidiary of Air Pacific and therefore Pacific Sun is not acting independently for all Pacific Sun passengers BUT in the interest of Air Pacific. Pacific Sun’s policy is discriminatory in nature to other airlines and it seems the objective of this policy is to hinder competition by offering better deals to consumers connecting Air Pacific as compared to other airlines.

The Council is not just concerned about the extra costs and inconvenience of Pacific Sun’s baggage policy but also on the larger impact such policies will have particularly on tourism. Tourism industry plays a vital role in Fiji’s economy and a lot of effort and money is spend on marketing Fiji to boost tourist arrivals. Everything possible is done to keep tourists happy so that they not only return to Fiji but also spread the good word about us to their friends and relatives encouraging them to visit us also. However, imprudent policies such as Pacific Sun’s baggage policy could have the opposite effect on tourism.

Recently, Commerce Commission conducted a review of domestic air travel prices as there were concerns that the domestic airline had substantial market power in the domestic market. The Commission's review has established that Pacific Sun has substantial market power. The Council believes that Pacific Sun’s baggage policy is a very good example of how the domestic carrier dictates the practices of domestic air travel. There is virtually no competition in domestic air travel so Pacific Sun is using its position to dictate rules and policies favourable to the airline and the consumers have no option but to follow it or lose out travelling within Fiji.

The Council hopes that the authorities will closely scrutinize such imprudent policies of the domestic carrier to bring about fairness in the industry and also to protect consumers.