Proposed new airfare bill: Prepare to be hoodwinked once again

Remember a time when it was easy to be hoodwinked by the lure of seemingly rock-bottom airfares, only to find out the promo prices didn't include taxes and fees?

Those practices ended in January of 2012 when new federal airline passenger-protection rules began requiring airlines and online booking sites to include taxes and fees in all advertised fares.

Not only that, but the new regs required them to incorporate taxes and fees into the first fare that the customer sees. No longer acceptable is listing prices, not including taxes and fees, in big, bold type, followed by the bottom-line price in small print.

Well, guess who's lobbying to roll the clock back?

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives and supported by airline trade groups, seeks to allow advertised fares to include only the base air fare, minus taxes and fees, and disclose the full amount "in a link or pop up" prior to purchase.

Without hearings or debate, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved a bill April 9, Bloombeg News reports. 

Feel like doing something about it? Sign this online petition on Change.org. 

The reasoning for this step backward is laughable. Somehow, by including taxes and fees in the total price quoted, the industry is doing consumers are a disservice by "hiding'' how big of a cut the government is taking,  say Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who introduced the Transparent Airfares Act along with Oregon Dem Peter DeFazio and Washington State Dem Rick Larsen. 

Who's hiding anything? Here's an example of the way Alaska Airlines shows a round-trip fare between Seattle and Phoenix:  Note the total fare is presented first, followed by the break-down in taxes and fees. 

Total per Traveler
$292.00

Base Fare $251.16
Taxes and Fees
$40.84
US Flight Segment Tax $8.00
US Psgr. Facility Charge $9.00
US Sept. 11 Security Fee $5.00
US Transportation Tax $18.84


Easy enough?

You'd think so, but apparently not good enough for Airlines for America, the airline industry trade group. CEO Nicholas E. Calio makes a very unconvincing case for a change in this post for The Congress Blog

More accurate is what consumer advocate Ed Perkins had to say in a recent post for Smarter Traveler.com

"While claiming to offer consumers 'better information,' the bill's provisions would actually make matters worse, " Perkins states. "It would again allow airlines to feature ridiculously low-ball fares with an asterisk noting, "each way based on round-trip purchase, not including fees, surcharges, and taxes."

"Proponents of the bill—clearly parroting words supplied by airline lobbyists—claim that consumers want to know how much of the airfare they pay consists of taxes and fees. Actually, Rep Shuster, they don't. What they want to know is how much a trip will really cost, not some phony figure designed to make them think an airline is almost giving away tickets. If they really want to know the details about taxes and fees, they can easily look at the "terms and conditions" pull-down display.

I recall this "Flight Deals to Europe" promotion I found on American Airlines' website prior to the new rules taking effect in  2012.

Seattle to Rome for $381 for travel into mid-June sounded like a steal. But wait. That was one way based on buying a round trip. Still, $762 sounded pretty good, but ... as the fine print indicated, that quote didn't include $92 in taxes and fees. The true fare, once I clicked through to book, was $853.

As Perkins suggests, even if you aren't into politics much, this is one time you will want to contact your representatives, or back the efforts of a consumer coalition, called Travelers United, working to make sure the Senate doesn't go along. That group includes the American Society of Travel Agents and the Travel Technology Association, which represents online travel companies like Priceline Group Inc. (PCLN), Orbitz Worldwide Inc. (OWW) and Sabre Corp.’s Travelocity. 

With Congress home on recess, the airline industry is lobbying senators and their aides to find sponsors for a companion measure in the Senate, which would also have to pass a bill for the measure to become law, Bloomberg reports.

The American Association of Travel Agents is asking members to write members of Congress and ask them to oppose the bill.  "This bill would allow airlines to deceive travelers about the actual cost of a flight, a fight they already lost in 2012 when the Department of Transportation put rules in place to prevent precisely this situation," said ASTA CEO Zane Kerby.

"Congress should stay its hand here. There is no evidence of consumer harm under the DOT rule, only benefits for the traveling public." 


1 comment:

  1. Nice Info! If the objective is to get more customers online, it may contain various elements, as opposed to one that is designed to benefit more recognition.

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