ASTA Advises Agents on DOT Checked Baggage Fee Policy

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a notice to airlines and travel agents regarding the disclosure of checked baggage fees, according to a new advisory from the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).

Effective immediately, DOT requires the airlines and travel agents to disclose first and second baggage fees to consumers when pricing an itinerary, and to provide notice of the fees in all print and Internet advertising, ASTA advised members.

DOT policy covers four basic areas:

1. Internet advertising
2. Print advertising
3. Telephone and face-to-face disclosure
4. Special notice to consumers after a significant policy change is made

    For all Internet advertising, including travel agency operated consumer booking engines, notice of an airline's new baggage policy should be placed on the first fare quotation screen for the consumer's selected itinerary. The notice may consist of either an asterisk in close proximity to the fare quotation stating "additional baggage charge may apply," or a more detailed summary of the charges on the same screen as the fare quote. With either option, the text should contain a link to a full description of the baggage charges and the effective date. Travel agents who operate a consumer booking engine should verify that their booking engine is in compliance.

    With print advertising, an asterisk should be placed near the fare quote referring readers to a "succinct" statement of the baggage policies, including the effective date. DOT also requires that reservation agents, including travel agents, "disclose baggage charges and limitations," including the effective date, during telephone or counter (face-to-face) sales prior to completing a sale.

    ASTA recommends that agents document disclosure in the Passenger Name Record (PNR). In addition, ASTA recommends that agents include a baggage fee disclosure notice on the customer's itinerary/invoice. To see a summary of airline checked bag fees, as well as a sample disclosure notice, go to ASTA's Airline Checked Baggage Policy chart. For information: www.dot.gov or www.asta.com

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