H.R. 4156, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, is a focus of Senate staff this week as they craft a companion bill to the House bill before members return on Monday, April 28, the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) reports.
H.R. 4156 would override the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) 2012 full-fare advertising rule. The purpose of this DOT rule - broadly supported by consumer and industry groups - is to ensure consumers are not misled regarding the total cost of air transportation.
"The press is beginning to report on this stunning effort by airlines to undercut their regulator and the indecent haste that has accompanied this bill, with no hearings at which other stakeholders would have had an opportunity to inform Congress of their views and the flaws in this bill - a true railroad job," says Kevin Mitchell, BTC chairman.
BTC reports it has developed a Media Resource Center for H.R. 4156 at http://btcnews.co/1mrrh9d comprised of relevant foundational documents, analyses, industry statements representing all views on the bill, press stories and sources.
Bloomberg commented: "Airlines have found new allies in their fight against a requirement that they include U.S. taxes and fees in their advertised fares: every member of a congressional panel overseeing the agency that created the rule. Without hearings or debate, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved a bill April 9 that would let carriers resume their former practice of most prominently featuring base fares, rather than the total price. Taxes, baggage fees and other costs that can make up a substantial portion of what consumers pay can be displayed through links or pop-ups."
USA Today commented: "Fliers say bill will give airlines license to lie about fares. If the airline industry gets its way, and its cleverly named Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 passes, then the price of your airline ticket could drop significantly. At least, it'll look that way. Airlines say about 20 percent of your airline ticket goes directly to the federal government and airports in the form of taxes and fees money that, for the most part, pays for essential services such as airport security, air traffic control and passenger facilities. But would the cost of your ticket actually go down with the law? Nope."
The Association for Airline Passenger Rights (AAPR; www.flyfriendlyskies.com) also urged Congress to "slow down" on its consideration of the legislation. AAPR says the changes "represents a significant step backwards."
AAPR said it is "particularly alarmed by the lack of consumer input during this process."
"This legislation represents the worst of oligarchical government, since only the airline lobbyists have drafted the legislation and our elected officials have sought no input from advocates, consumer rights groups, or passengers themselves," said Brandon M. Macsata, executive director of AAPR. "The so-called claim is there a groundswell of support for this legislation by airline passengers; if you believe that one, then I have some ocean front property in Kansas that I'd love to sell to you."
AAPR contends that consumers are already upset over the lack of transparency with all of the hidden fees being levied on airline passengers. Any effort to weaken the long-overdue passenger protections enacted by DOT in 2012 should be grounded for good, AAPR says.
The House legislation is supported by Airlines for America (A4A), the airline trade group.
Also entering the debate is the Travel Technology Association, or Travel Tech, which represents the online travel industry. The group released a statement after the introduction of the legislation.
"As Congress and federal regulators examine legislation and policies impacting the travel and tourism marketplace, it's imperative that any new laws or regulations protect consumer choice and promote transparency," said Travel Tech president Steve Shur.
"The traveling public deserves to have access to the transparent, all-in cost of airfare, including all taxes and fees, so they can make true comparisons and educated decisions regarding their travel choices. Travel Tech is concerned that the Transparent Airfares Act could harm consumers by reducing, rather than promoting, all-in price transparency," Shur said.