United States

U.S. Department of Transportation Proposes Air Fare Transparency Rules

By Matt Alderton
May 22, 2014

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed new rules yesterday that would increase consumer protections for air travelers.

In particular, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wants to require that airlines disclose fees for "basic airline services" -- such as checked baggage and advanced seat assignments -- up front as part of advertised fares. Additionally, Foxx wants to require more carriers to report performance data to DOT and to codify DOT's definition of the term "ticket agent" so that it includes Internet search sites. Because many laws and regulations use the term "ticket agent," the latter action will ensure that consumer protections extend to all air travelers, regardless of how they purchased their ticket.

"Knowledge is power, and our latest proposal helps ensure consumers have clear and accurate information when choosing among air transportation options," Foxx said in a statement. "The proposal we're offering today will strengthen the consumer protections we have previously enacted and raise the bar for airlines and ticket agents when it comes to treating travelers fairly."

The travel industry's first response -- from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) -- expressed guarded support for the proposed rule.

"GBTA will carefully review and comment in greater detail on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; however, we maintain support for the free-market right of businesses to create and follow their own chosen business models, including charging ancillary fees," said GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick. "But travel buyers and their agents must be presented with an accurate view of the full cost of products. To that end, it is imperative that there is full transparency to buyers on fares and fees. This also applies to booking, ticketing, billing and fulfilling those services."

DOT will accept comments on its proposed rules for 90 days from consumers and industry stakeholders. Those interested in commenting can do so at regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2014-0056.
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