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Consumers Are Airlines’ Pawns, Says BTCApril 13, 2011 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
|The Business Travel Coalition is urging Congress and the DOT to enforce more tranparency when it comes to ancillary airline fees.|
Consumers and corporate managed travel programs are being used as pawns by an airline once again, according to a statement issued by the Business Travel Coalition (BTC). The statement was a response to the public-policy implications of the antitrust lawsuit filed by American Airlines against Travelport and Orbitz in federal court.
“This American Airlines’ antitrust lawsuit against Orbitz and Travelport is not a path to resolving an overarching problem that the marketplace does not embrace - American’s so-called direct-connect proposal,” the BTC issued in its statement. “Rather, the lawsuit is another major symptom pointing to a failure in the marketplace for commercial airline services.”
“Nothing about this American [Airlines’] lawsuit brings consumers closer to their need for access to full fare and fee information. Expensive and years-long court proceedings can only throw into doubt hope of progress in restoring comparative shopping of all-in travel prices for the 50 percent of consumers and virtually all corporate managed travel programs that purchase airline tickets through the travel agency sales channel,” BTC said.
The BTC urged that, with strong direction from the U.S. Congress, the Department of Transportation (DOT) must act now to address this problem. It wants the DOT to require airlines to disclose ancillary fee information (e.g., checked baggage charges) in the same electronic and transactable formats used to publish airfares themselves.
“For two and one-half years, despite major corporations’ substantial collective purchasing power and their continuing calls for full disclosure of fee data, airlines have refused to provide the travel agency sales channel with this vital information. This refusal is well-defined evidence of a marketplace that is not functioning properly,” the BTC said.
“As such, [the] DOT is the last bastion of consumer protection and has existing authority through Section 41712 of the Federal Aviation Act to address unfair and deceptive practices by requiring full disclosure of fee data. DOT has exercised this authority in the past by requiring airline code sharing and change-of-gauge information to be shared through the global distribution systems with travel agencies and consumers,” BTC said.