A breakfast orientation fee? Really?

by Janice Hough on December 18, 2013


As much as most of us don’t like fees, they have a purpose in the travel industry. “A la carte” pricing, as suppliers call it, can at times save people money when they don’t need the item or service with a surcharge.

The frustration comes with mandatory fees that seem unnecessary and fees for very basic services. Perhaps worst of all are sneaky fees, the ones you don’t even know you’re paying.

For the example of the week, how about Pleasant Holidays? Pleasant Holidays is generally a solid company with decent rates on vacation packages and I’ve actually found some incredible deals with them at times.

But all their Hawaii vacations come with a “breakfast orientation.” Now, for first timers, this can be a good and informative thing, but what it really is is a sales presentation about adding activities to a trip — snorkeling, sailing, zip-lining and evening events like luaus. No doubt Pleasant makes a good deal of money from the program.

Fair enough, if travelers want to research other, potentially cheaper options, that is their right. While I don’t book the company frequently, I’ve seen the confirmation on itineraries and told clients they can go if they want, or not. It’s just something the company includes as part of the package.

Except, strictly speaking, that’s not true. A coworker discovered that this little sale pitch breakfast is also an additional charge, one that is automatically included unless you have a supervisor take it off.

The charge isn’t huge; when I called to verify this, a reservations agent said he didn’t know for sure, but it was “$5 or $6 dollars a person.” But, he would have to have customer service remove it from any booking to find out. But my coworkers tell me that it is more like $10 a person. Which adds up, especially for large families.

Ten dollars a person isn’t a ridiculous amount for breakfast compared to hotel prices. So maybe it isn’t the whole cost of the meal. But, Hawaii does have some budget food options, particularly in the cities. (Heck, in Hawaii, McDonald’s even serves fresh pineapple at breakfast.) One would think that the suppliers, by getting a captive audience on the morning after they arrive in Hawaii, would be glad to underwrite it.

Or, that Pleasant Holidays themselves would cover the cost out of the commission they make from the sales.

The worst thing is that the fee is sneaky. People don’t even know they’re paying it. If they wanted to offer a “discount breakfast orientation,” in the same way the company offers the ability to buy a lei greeting, no problem. But then, people would opt out; maybe most people. That appears to be the point.

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