BTC Calls for DOT Action on Ancillary Fees

business travelerArguing that a consolidated airline industry has made consumer protections urgent, the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) urged prompt action by the Department of Transportation (DOT) on a passenger protection rulemaking (NPRM). The BTC filing was supported by some 300 consumer and industry groups.

Consumers need to be able to see, compare and buy ancillary services, BTC said, in a letter to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.

RELATED: DOT Ends Consumer Protection Comment Period

The move was supported by corporate, university and government travel departments, travel management companies, industry associations, consumer groups, airport authorities and foundations, BTC notes. 

The BTC filing included an industry-wide survey on government ancillary fee policy. BTC said it and consumer groups are encouraging the DOT to move forward promptly with the ancillary fee rule while taking the the time necessary to consider other rules.

"After waiting 6 years for ancillary fee information, travel industry participants want true comparison-shopping for consumers restored as soon as possible," BTC said. 

Citing a recent BTC survey of 343 travel managers, BTC concluded:

  • 331, or 96.5 percent, of survey participants think airlines should proactively provide ancillary fee information to channels where they sell their base fares;
  • 325, or 94.75 percent, of participants believe that because the marketplace after 6 years has not fixed this problem, DOT should issue a rule requiring airlines to provide this information to channels where they sell their base fares; 
  • 304, or 90.48 percent, believe DOT should require ancillary fee information to be shared by airlines in a format that allows the purchase of such services in the same transaction as the ticket purchase.

Airlines increasingly mask the all-in price of air travel, with two major adverse effects, BTC said. "Lack of price transparency prevents consumers from efficient comparison-shopping of air travel offerings across multiple airlines – a hallmark of U.S. airline industry deregulation."

A second consequence, BTC said, is that that ancillary fees go largely undisciplined by market forces.

BTC stressed it favors the 'critically important' DOT proposal that an airline be required to provide ancillary fee data to ticket agents who are authorized to sell travel services on behalf of an airline.

"We urge DOT to deal with the ancillary fee rule right away and not permit this, the most important part of the rulemaking, to be delayed by the long period of time likely to be required to analyze the great number of other complex and controversial proposals within the NPRM," BTC said.