I had to book some airline tickets for later on in the year and like most other people, I wanted to pay as little for them as possible.
There’s several airlines to choose from; each offering different routes and vastly different prices, dependant entirely upon what you want from your flight. I went for the ‘no-frills’ approach and booked my tickets with Wizz Air.
I’ve flown with Wizz Air before and there’s nothing wrong with their planes or their service, as long as you know that all you’re getting for the basic price is an unallocated seat. As with other budget airlines, you have to pay extra to check-in luggage, reserve a seat, check-in at the airport etc. But if you simply want to fly somewhere a couple of hours away and only want to bring a backpack, a cheap, basic seat is absolutely fine.
We all know that the whole idea behind these cheap flights is that you end up paying more for optional extras, but I noticed a fee that Wizz Air apply to ticket prices and which isn’t optional. It’s a ‘stealth tax’ in the form of an €8.00 “administration fee“, applicable to ticket purchases made online or via their mobile app.
If you want to, you can book tickets over the telephone and pay a €15.00 “call centre transaction fee” on top of the £1.10/minute (plus any operator fees) to call Wizz Air on their premium-rate 0911 telephone number.
I reckon that in the event of cabin depressurisation during one of their flights, cabin crew would walk along the aisle in oxygen masks, offering each passenger a personal oxygen supply for just €99.00 if they hadn’t already purchased the “emergency oxygen supply” option online for the discounted price of €20.00. Oh, and it wouldn’t be any cheaper (or free) for children. You can bring your own parachute onboard but guess what? That’ll cost extra.
Basically, you can’t purchase airline tickets from Wizz Air at the advertised prices as there is no method to do so without the incurring an additional fee.
As far as additional fees go, the “administration fee” and the “call centre transaction fee” are daylight robbery and shouldn’t be allowed as in my case, this equates to an additional £15.00 for a return ticket.
Rip-off fees aside, I inadvertently ended up paying almost £30.00 too much (over £40.00 if you include the unavoidable and unnecessary £15.00 “administration fee”) due to a little mistake I made with currency conversion when completing the payment on my airline tickets.
When payment is accepted in different currencies as it is on the Wizz Air website, I do some quick calculations to see if I’d be better off making the purchase with a prepaid currency card which I have because depending on the conversion rates, I can sometimes save money by purchasing in a foreign currency.
I looked at the amounts charged in different currencies and worked out the
exchange rate which my prepaid currency card provider would convert the transaction at. It seems that Wizz Air charge a little more in foreign currencies, so I wouldn’t have benefited. This being the case, I proceeded to use my credit card to pay the GBP amount.
As I clicked on the button to complete the purchase, I noticed something horrifying.
I’d forgotten to change the currency back from USD to GBP and it was too late to do anything about it. I was being charged in USD.
Had I paid in USD with my prepaid currency card, it would have cost me quite a bit extra at their conversion rates, which are genuinely competitive. I had just completed a foreign transaction with my high-street-bank credit card, whose rates are definitely not competitive.
Fortunately, once you’ve purchased airline tickets from Wizz Air, you benefit from being able to contact their call centre on a local-rate telephone number, so you don’t need to sell a kidney to discuss your booking. I rang them immediately to see if there was anything they could do to help me.
I spoke with a very helpful chap who confirmed that my payment had gone through in GBP and that I would definitely be charged in GBP. He was reassuring and confident, so I thanked him for clarifying the details and ended the call.
Knowing full well that he had been talking utter bollocks, I contacted my credit card company who confirmed that they could see a pending transaction which had just been made, but they couldn’t yet tell whether or not it was a foreign transaction. I was also reminded that as well as getting a crap conversion rate, I would pay a 2.75% foreign transaction fee for the privilege if it was a foreign transaction. Awesome.
I contacted Wizz Air again to explain the mistake and to ask very nicely if they could please cancel/refund the payment before allowing me to make the payment immediately, there and then, in GBP. Bearing in mind all of this was still within 5 minutes of making the erroneous payment.
They can not.
There’s nothing they can do to help me.
My credit card statement has been updated so I can now see the final price of the airline tickets and the bank’s foreign transaction fee. An additional cost of almost £30.00 due to not checking something before clicking a ‘pay now’ button online.
Don’t get me wrong; this is totally my fault and I should have been more careful.
But surely Wizz Air could have helped me out there and then, given that I called them up immediately? For the extra money it’s cost me, I could have purchased the “emergency oxygen supply” option.