Tourists put off by increased costs of domestic air travel

24/06/2010 16:08

The Consumer Council of Fiji has received complaints from disgruntled tourists on Pacific Sun’s baggage policy which is costing them extra dollars. Some tourists have paid $145 to $400 extra for their baggage which they deemed excessive and unfair. 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 their international flights. The Pacific Sun passengers will be charged for the 2nd piece at $FJ60 per piece.

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.

One of the tourists, who had lodged a complaint with the Council, had travelled via Air Pacific to Fiji from Vancouver, Canada with five other family members. The tickets of these six travellers allowed them to carry two pieces of luggage each on Pacific Sun from Nadi to Suva however, when they checked in on the Pacific Sun flight bound for Suva in Nadi, they were told that they could only take one piece of luggage per person and was requested to pay an extra $145 for the remaining 6 pieces. Although frustrated, the complainant had no option but to pay the extra cash.

Another tourist was asked to an extra $400 for his golf clubs as it fell under bulky luggage category.  The Council is concerned that these extra costs and inconvenience of Pacific Sun’s baggage policy is having a larger impact on tourism in Fiji. 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. The unfair baggage policy is a disincentive to potential tourists.

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.

Recently, Commerce Commission's review of domestic air travel prices has established that Pacific Sun has substantial market power in the domestic market. The Council believes the baggage policy is a very good example of how the domestic carrier dictates the terms of domestic air travel. There is virtually no competition in domestic air travel so Pacific Sun is using its dominant 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.