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Singapore Airlines gets ticket pricing right

How much does that airline ticket cost?

This shouldn't be a trick question. But the prices quoted in most airline ads give consumers only the barest hint of how much they'll actually pay for their tickets. That the base fare is so different from the actual purchase price isn't just the fault of the airlines. Most of the add-on fees and taxes are not of their making. But the standard industry practice of promoting fares exclusive of the myriad extra fees is at best inconsiderate of consumers' need for real prices. And at worst, it borders on false advertising.

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When consumers price a trip, what they want—and in many cases think they're getting, notwithstanding the footnotes—is the cost of the ticket as it will appear on their credit card statement.

And that total is exactly what they'll get from Singapore Airlines, which began quoting full prices, including taxes, on January 1, 2008.

Henceforth, with the carrier's "All In" fares, when Singapore advertises a price for a Los Angeles-Tokyo ticket, for example, it will reflect the actual cost, including any and all extra fees. No need for the shopper to work through the fine print, trying to discern which additional fees and surcharges should be added to the artificially low price printed in 24-point type.

According to the company's news release, "[T]he wide variety of extra charges in recent years, and the fact that they now form a greater part of the total price, has led to consumer demand for all-inclusive pricing." Indeed.

Singapore is adopting the all-inclusive pricing policy categorically: In all its advertising worldwide, and on its websites, all published prices will reflect the total cost of the ticket.

Singapore makes this move at some risk to its sales. Until its policy is adopted industrywide—and it should be—there will inevitably be consumers who compare Singapore's all-inclusive prices with other airlines' base fares, not realizing it's an apples-to-oranges comparison.

I began my career in the travel industry more than 30 years ago, working for Singapore Airlines. At the time, we boasted "the world's most modern fleet" and in-flight service epitomized by the iconic Singapore Girl. In the ensuing years, the airline has managed to maintain its hardware and service edge. With its "All In" fares, Singapore is staking a claim to the moral high ground as well.

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