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DOT Faces Mounting Pressure to End Hidden Air Fees

September 23, 2010 By: Staff

ASTA and the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) have presented Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood with a letter signed by more than 300 of the world's largest travel management companies and corporations and by travel associations from around the globe urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to require airlines to fully disclose ancillary fees to all sales outlets in which they participate.

Included among the signatories were companies such as McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Merck, Deltek, BASF, Goodrich, Ingersoll Rand, GlaxoSmithKline and Campbell Soup, to name a few.

"Without requiring the airlines to provide all their sales outlets with full, transparent and transactable information on the fees they charge, you are, in effect, keeping more than half of the American traveling public in the dark about their final costs and preventing them from making an informed purchase decision," said Paul Ruden, senior vice president for Legal and Industry Affairs at ASTA.

"We are calling on the DOT to do what's right for the traveling public. Leisure and corporate travelers should be able to complete their entire purchase, including ancillary fees, in the distribution channel of their choice," BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell stated.

"It's in all stakeholders' interest for airlines to be profitable; unbundling and the fees-model hold great promise. However, airlines were cautioned as they accelerated unbundling that they would risk derailing their fee strategies by ignoring the needs of consumers for full disclosure of fees, and thus attracting the attention of regulators, and by disregarding the needs of the managed travel community and losing its support. Unfortunately, many airlines accomplished both,” Mitchell said.

In the letter, the companies note that a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress found that airlines "are not likely to disclose these fees unless compelled to do so." The letter goes on to explain that their "managed travel programs help comprise the 50 percent or more of air travelers who do not purchase tickets on airlines' websites, but rather through online travel agencies and travel management companies. This is why it is imperative that airlines be required to provide these add-on fee data to our travel management companies. Indeed, the scores of billions of dollars in annual corporate air travel spend largely underwrites the national air transportation system."

The letter also shared the results of a recent study conducted by the BTC which found that 100 percent of corporate travel managers indicated that unbundling and extra fees has caused serious problems for their managed travel programs and that 86 percent believe that airlines, absent government rules, will not make "fair, adequate and readily accessible disclosure of their add-on fees and charges so that travel managers and their travel management companies can do comparison shopping of the all-in prices for air travel across carriers."

The communication with DOT comes at the culmination of the Mad as Hell Day! campaign at, which in just a few weeks received a groundswell of support from across the country and world as angry travelers tell the DOT that the airline practice of hiding ancillary fees must stop.

To read the full text of the letter, please visit


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