New Department of Transportation (DOT) baggage disclosure rules that take effect today won praise from the Open Allies for Airfare Transparency. The alliance of 380 agencies and travel management firms said the new DOT rules requiring improved disclosure of baggage fees was a welcomed first step.
However, the group noted much more work needs to be done quickly to provide full disclosure of baggage and other major fees, such as for seating and boarding, before purchase, to enable meaningful comparison shopping across airlines of the all-in (fare+fees+taxes) price of a ticket.
DOT, they note, has announced plans for a supplementary rulemaking to address full disclosure of these fees through all distribution channels airlines choose to use, but recently delayed that rulemaking, with the result that consumers likely will not see full disclosure until 2013.
"DOT deserves great credit for once again delivering on promises to consumers today," said Art Sackler, Open Allies for Airfare Transparency's executive director, "but as DOT itself has acknowledged, today's change does not go far enough. "
Open Allies underscores the urgency of swiftly taking the decisive steps to assure consumers access to all optional fees at every point of sale. "Otherwise, consumers face another year, or longer, of confusion and complexity, with no meaningful way to compare offerings across airlines to secure the best deal on the all-in price of air travel," Open Allies said.
Airlines have disaggregated, or unbundled, fees for many services, including baggage, seating and boarding. Details on those fees are not published and updated continuously like the cost of the base airfare.
DOT has taken an important step in providing some resolution for consumers on the question for baggage, but these fees, and more than a hundred others, remain functionally hidden because they are unavailable for all-in price comparisons across airlines prior to the time of purchase, the alliance said.
"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 and transactable fee information be provided through every distribution channel in which an airline chooses to sell, so that businesses and consumers can fully compare prices and purchase at points of sale of their choosing," Open Allies said.
The nearly 400 members of Open Allies believe the traveling public is entitled to buy airline tickets, including fees for all services they select, based on clear, complete and simple-to-understand-and-compare information, Open Allies said.
Open Allies for Airfare Transparency is a coalition of individuals, companies, and organizations that believe that all airline fares and fees should be transparent to the traveling public. Members include more than 380 travel management companies, corporate travel departments, consumer groups and travel agencies.