The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) is supporting Senator Susan Collins’ (R-Maine) reported efforts to revive the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) rulemaking on airfare transparency. In a letter to the Senator provided to Travel Agent, the advocacy organization thanked Sen. Collins “for your strong legislative efforts to protect consumers by promoting price and product transparency and competition in commercial air travel.” The BTC is collecting travel industry organizations to co-sign the letter.
It was first reported in early February that Sen. Collins, the most senior Republican woman in the Senate and the chair of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, was looking to revive the DOT’s Notice of Propose Rulemaking (NPRM) on airfare transparency.
The NPRM was first issued in 2011 during the Obama administration and would have collected detailed revenue information on airline ancillary fees, such as those for checked baggage. A second, supplemental NPRM issued in January of 2017 would have required the disclosure of such fees at all points of sale, including by travel agents. The DOT withdrew both NPRM last December, citing an executive order by President Donald Trump aimed at reducing government regulations.
“Some U.S. airlines have been seeking to withhold and restrict the discovery by consumers of airfare, schedule and availability information presented by metasearch platforms and some online travel sites,” the BTC wrote in the new letter. “These airlines have reduced consumer choice by making it exceedingly more difficult to comparison shop for the best flight at the lowest price in a transparent, simple way.”
When it was announced the decision to withdraw the NPRM drew criticism from travel industry organizations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).
“We are disappointed with the DOT’s decision,” said ASTA’s Eben Peck, executive vice president, advocacy, in a statement provided to Travel Agent at the time. “While a far cry from the full transparency in and consumer access to airline ancillary fees ASTA has been pushing for since 2011, the Department’s January 2017 proposal requiring that consumers be notified of airline bag fees at all points of sale – including through travel agents – was a step in the right direction.”
Peck said that ASTA believes strongly that withholding important airline information from consumers who use travel agents harms the traveling public, and that those who do should be as informed as those who buy directly from airlines.