Looking for work? The U.S. Census Bureau is hiring more than 500,000 people nationwide. Learn more.
by Sid Kirchheimer, AARP Bulletin, March 24, 2010
Like many airline passengers, Ian Ayres isn’t thrilled about having to pay extra to check his luggage, get an onboard snack and for other perks once included in a flight fare. But an additional $75 for a seat with extra legroom?
“That’s a rather high price,” says Ayres, 51, an economist, author and lawyer who writes the New York Times ’ Freakonomics blog.
But what really irks the Yale University professor is where he was almost pulled into paying that price for a few extra inches of comfort: at an airline ticketing kiosk, which is supposed to speed the ticketing process for hurried passengers.
See Also: Cheap travel tips
“The shadiness of it all is that the ‘Accept’ button was in the same lower corner, and looked exactly like the ‘Continue’ button of previous screens,” notes Ayres. “I definitely think this is purposely designed to try and trick passengers. It’s a free-market world, but why not put it as a distinct red button so people can avoid a mistake while running for a flight?”
So beware: Use an electronic kiosk to check in for a United Airlines flight, for example, and you’ll likely have to navigate three additional extra-cost hurdles—to speed through security lines, buy frequent flier miles or get a business-class upgrade.
For United Airlines passenger and WalletPop blogger Jason Cochran, the total of these tack-ons would have been nearly $524 had he not carefully read each word on each screen.
“Passengers who are late for their flights are much less likely to correctly decipher the screens,” Cochran says. “Older and confused passengers, too, are more likely to hit the ‘Accept’ button, mistaking it for ‘Proceed.’ ”
United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski wrote by e-mail that it’s nearly impossible for passengers to be charged for unwanted upgrades. “The fact is, after you push the button there are several things one must do to make the purchase,” she wrote. “A more appropriate ‘warning’ would be to not enter your credit card number twice and confirm a purchase if you do not want to buy the added perks.”
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of “Scam-Proof Your Life.”
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Get tips and resources to protect yourself from fraud and see the latest scam alerts in your state.
Members save 15% on in-store purchases of frozen yogurt, treats and apparel.
Exclusive program for members from The Hartford.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at