Travel Industry Groups Plan Fight for Consumer Protection

Major travel and consumer groups are expected to launch a new campaign to correct 'critical weaknesses' in the current U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on passenger protections. 

The groups also said  they plan to announce the results of a national survey on consumer experiences and attitudes regarding ancillary fees like checked baggage and assigned seating, this week. 

The groups include Travelers United (formerly Consumer Travel Alliance), the American Society of Travel Agents, the Business Travel Coalition, the Travel Technology Association and the Open Allies For Airfare Transparency.The associations note that the DOT has spent more than three years drafting a rule to help protect passengers from hidden and unexpected airline fees for things like baggage and seating that used to be part of the base ticket price, but are concerned about the current language in the rule.  

"While the proposed rule includes some notable new consumer protections on ancillary fees, there are also significant gaps in those protections that could leave consumers at risk of continued unfair and deceptive practices by airlines in pricing, marketing and selling those fees," the groups said in a joint statement.

In addition, they note that a portion of the rulemaking that deals with the critical disclosure of ancillary fees has been put at risk of being delayed into 2015. The draft rule includes many other controversial provisions that have not been well vetted and will require lengthy additional time for review. the groups said.

The groups are expected to encourage DOT to move forward quickly on the ancillary fees issue, while issuing a supplemental rulemaking on the rest of the rule. 

"By hiding the prices of their ancillary fees, airlines have deprived consumers of the ability to easily search, compare and buy the range of services they need for air travel. Transparent pricing for consumers needs to be restored as soon as possible," the groups said.

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