Virgin Blue has raised its credit card surcharge on domestic and international bookings, to the point where its booking fee for a return flight within Australia is now higher than that of Qantas.
The new credit card fees, which were quietly introduced just prior to Christmas, sees the previous $3.50 per passenger domestic surcharge climb to $4.50 – a near-30% increase.
Virgin Blue bases this booking fee on a ‘per flight segment’ model, where a segment is one individual flight. A Sydney-Melbourne return trip is therefore counted as two segments which attracts the credit card booking fee twice over.
This means that Virgin Blue's credit charge fee for a domestic return flight now stands at $9. By comparison, Qantas' surcharge of $7.70 applies to an entire booking (including return flights) rather than each 'flight segment' in that booking.
Virgin Blue has also lifted the credit card booking fee on international flights by $1, with passengers now paying $7 per flight segment. This once again translates into $14 for a return flight, although that's still less than half of Qantas' $30 international booking fee.
Christopher Zinn, spokesman for consumer group Choice, remains critical of excessive surcharges. “The Reserve Bank permits (surcharging) under law ... but the issue is that some of the surcharges are patently excessive” says Zinn, while also observing that many other counties do not have any credit card surcharges.