Consumers Will Wait: What the DOT Delay Means

Air travelers will have to scrutinize their purchases and watch their wallets for at least another year, says the Open Allies for Airfare Transparency (OAAT), a pro consumer group that includes travel agents.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has further deferred its consumer rulemaking III, with significant consequences for consumers, OAATS says.

"Consumers who want to know the full cost of their airline tickets, including fees for baggage, seating, boarding and more, and be able to compare them with other airlines, before purchase, will wait," OAAT said.

The issuance of a proposed rule is targeted for next August 27, with 60 days allotted for public comment. A final rule almost surely will not be put into effect until significantly into 2013, the Allies say.

DOT''s delay has been caused by a requirement to do a cost/benefits analysis of its proposal, and the need to competitively bid out the contract for the analysis.

"Although unavoidable, that delay is a real problem for air travelers," said Art Sackler, Open Allies for Airfare Transparency executive director.

"It means another year or more of confusion, complexity and no meaningful way to compare across airlines and find the best deal on an all-in price. We encourage DOT to take every step it can to shorten the projected time frame for these new rules."

In its consumer rulemaking II, released in April of last year, DOT addressed the question of hidden fees for all of the services airlines have disaggregated, or unbundled, and are charging for separately, by requiring those airlines to publish the fees on their websites and update them at least every 90 days.

OAAT said, "DOT also announced then that it would conduct a third rulemaking to address the manner in which fee information should be distributed and communicated to travelers, whether business or leisure."

"With 50 percent or more of all airline tickets purchased via traditional travel agents or online travel sites, it is imperative that up-to-the-minute, transactable, fee information be provided through every distribution channel an airline chooses to use, so that businesses and consumers can fully compare prices and purchase at any point of sale," OAATS said.

"The nearly 400 members of Open Allies believe the traveling public is entitled to buy airline tickets, including fees for baggage or other services they select, based on clear, complete and simple-to-understand information. We look forward to continuing to provide our views to DOT in the interest of helping to shape just that outcome for consumers," OAATS said.
Open Allies for Airfare Transparency is a coalition of individuals, companies, and organizations that believes that all airline fares and fees should be transparent to the traveling public. Members include more than 380 of the world's leading travel management companies, corporate travel departments,consumer groups and travel agencies.


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