The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) praised the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for its final airline passenger rules, announced today, that will enact sweeping consumer protections regarding air travel.
Specifically, the BTC applauded DOT Secretary Ray LaHood for recognizing that a new DOT rule is needed to require airlines to disclose ancillary fee information. This includes checked baggage charges and at-airport ticketing fees at all points of sale for the more than 50 percent of consumers who purchase their tickets through the travel agency sales channel. This fee information needs to be in the same electronic and transactable formats used to publish airfares themselves, the BTC noted.
“In BTC’s opinion, the failure of airlines to share information about their ancillary fees with travel management companies violates that rule by making it impossible for corporate managed travel programs and individual consumers to efficiently compare air transportation costs among competing providers. Consumers often do not see extra fees until well into the shopping process, or after the purchase, and sometimes not even until they arrive at the airport,” the BTC said.
The BTC also noted that Section 41712 of the Federal Aviation Act prohibits “an unfair or deceptive practice or an unfair method of competition in air transportation or the sale of air transportation” by airlines and travel management companies.
According to the BTC, the marketplace and state consumer protection laws cannot resolve this problem. As such, the BTC regards the DOT as the last bastion of consumer protection with the existing authority to require full disclosure of fee data.
“The consumer, including corporate travel departments, needs to have comparison shopping of all-in airfares enabled once again after a two and one-half year hiatus during which time consumers were financially harmed,” said Chris Nicholas, CI Travel Vice President of Sales, and member of Open Allies For Airfare Transparency. “To solve this problem, the travel agency channel needs ancillary fee information in a transactable format at all points of sale where consumers shop and where airlines choose to sell their tickets.”