Ancillary fee transparency remains a key goal for ASTA, according to ASTA’s Vice President of Government Affairs Eben Peck who will address today the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection.
ASTA says it will urge the committee to submit a recommendation to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood that the upcoming passenger protection rulemaking include a requirement for full transparency and transactability of airline optional services and fees.
Peck’s comments are being made at the behest of the committee, ASTA reports, which was formed earlier this year with the purpose of advising Secretary LaHood on issues pertaining to consumer travel. Another recommendation is for improving existing aviation consumer protection programs or establishing new programs if appropriate. The committee is expected to provide its first report to the Secretary in October.
In his comments, Peck notes that:
"From ASTA’s point of view, the issue of airline ancillary fee disclosure and transactability is the single most important consumer protection issue being considered by DOT today. ASTA’s position is simple – the airline industry must provide consumers, working through every channel in which the airlines have elected to distribute their fares, with full transparency of all mandatory and optional charges of consequence and with the ability to buy those optional services. "
"Travel agents seek to be a source of information and purchase for optional services for the millions of travelers they serve, but travel agents cannot disclose that to which they do not have access. It is absurd to suggest that travel agents can simply hunt down the ancillary fee information, transaction-by-transaction, on hundreds of airline websites whenever they need to know, particularly if they have a customer waiting on the phone," Peck notes.
"Even when travel agencies have managed to find accurate information about ancillary fees for its customers, they cannot consummate the entire transaction. … Failure to require the airlines to share their ancillary fee data will leave literally millions of consumers without the ability to use their preferred channel and have the benefit of full comparative price shopping," Peck said.
The advisory committee is made up of Lisa Madigan, Illinois attorney general, David Berg, senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Airlines for America, Deborah Ale-Flint, director of aviation for Oakland International Airport and Charles Leocha, founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance.
The committee will hear from a range of travel and consumer protection organizations including U.S. PIRG, AirlinePassengers.org, National Consumers Union, U.S. Travel Association, Business Travel Coalition Open Allies, Interactive Travel Services Association, U.S. Tour Operators Association, Airports Council International, Regional Airline Association, International Air Transport Association /Airlines for America.