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NBTA Calls for Fair Display of Airline FeesJuly 16, 2010 By: George Dooley
The National Business Travel Association (NBTA) added its support for the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposal to establish rules requiring the clear display of all airline fees at the point of purchase. NBTA said that principle should apply regardless of which channel the purchaser uses to access flight and pricing information.
The NBTA’s position was laid out in detail in testimony submitted to the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, which held a hearing on airline fees.
"NBTA applauds this Subcommittee’s decision to look at the confusing and ever-expanding issue of airline fees," ” NBTA Executive Director and COO, Michael W. McCormick, said. "And, we commend the Department of Transportation on its goal to provide a framework of transparency so air travel consumers can make informed purchase decisions. Our position is simple: Fees equal fares. With that in mind, DOT should use its existing authority over the display of fares to require clear display at every point of purchase of all charges that would be considered an essential part of the trip."
The NBTA stated the common-sense principle that "consumers have the right to be presented with an accurate view of the full cost of a product." Meeting that goal requires "airlines provide full transparency to the public, including corporate travel managers and travel agencies, with regard to all fares, fees and other charges related to transporting passengers and their luggage, as well as booking, ticketing, billing, and fulfilling those services," the testimony states.
"No one is suggesting regulation of airline pricing," McCormick said. "NBTA believes there must be a common-sense approach to how basic air travel pricing is displayed to all customers, regardless of where they purchase. Our 5,000 members manage more than $340 billion annually in travel. They are true travel professionals, and the complex fee structures pose challenges even for them. The airline and travel distribution industries have repeatedly demonstrated the ability to evolve to meet complex challenges. All we need is for DOT to set the standard, and we’re confident the industry will come together to meet it."
NBTA has formed a global task force— the Airline Ancillary Product Task Force— to address the issues of properly tracking airline fees commonly known as ancillary fees. The assembled task force represents every aspect of the business travel industry that touches on the processes of booking, charging, and tracking air travel expenses, including credit card issuers, global distribution systems (GDS), airlines, travel management companies (corporate travel agencies), and corporate travel buyers.
The NBTA Foundation recently conducted a survey of more than 160 U.S.-based corporate travel buyers in its membership. The results demonstrate the challenges posed to companies by the lack of transparency in airline pricing and the need for government to establish the framework for a solution, the NBTA said:
* 58 percent of respondents are unable to track the total amount spent on ancillary fees.
* 61 percent said it was very important to know the total cost of the trip.
* 75 percent stated the most important reason to identify/track fees was to utilize this information for future negotiations.
* 86 percent indicated the industry should develop an industry standard.