A House Committee has advanced on a 63-0 vote a must-pass bill that includes a controversial provision that would allow airlines to obscure the actual cost of airline tickets. It is essential the full House of Representatives or, as a last resort, the Senate rejects this anti-customer provision.
House Committee Advances Bill That Would Obscure True Cost Of Airfare
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has now (unanimously) advanced a bill to the full House that does exactly that.
Here is the specific language in §701 the bill:
IN GENERAL. It shall not be an unfair or deceptive practice under subsection (a) for a covered entity to state in an advertisement or solicitation for passenger air transportation the base airfare for such air transportation if the covered entity clearly and separately discloses—
(A) the government-imposed taxes and fees associated with the air transportation; and
(B) the total cost of the air transportation.
FORM OF DISCLOSURE.
(A) IN GENERAL. For purposes of paragraph (1), the information described in paragraphs (1)(A) and (1)(B) shall be disclosed in the advertisement or solicitation in a manner that clearly presents the information to the consumer.
(B) INTERNET ADVERTISEMENTS AND SOLICITATIONS. For purposes of paragraph (1), with respect to an advertisement or solicitation for passenger air transportation that appears on a website, the information described in paragraphs (1)(A) and (1)(B) may be disclosed through a link or pop-up, as such terms may be defined by the Secretary, in a manner that is easily accessible and viewable by the consumer.
In short, this language would allow “base airfare” to be displayed while excluding government taxes and fees, provided there is a link to the all-in price or the final price is disclosed in some other way. Practically, you might see an airfare but have to click on a pop-up window to display the added taxes and may not see the actual all-in price until the final purchase screen.
While the airline lobby embraces this, I cannot think of a more anti-consumer measure when it comes to selling airfare.
The current solution works perfectly well. The all-in price must be displayed at all points of the search process, through airlines are free to show you how much of that ticket prices is government taxes and fees.
For example, here’s how United does it:
(Spirt also breaks out its bogus fees and tries to disguise them as government taxes, but at least you always know the all-in pricing)
Finally, I must stress again that the notion that government taxes are not part of your airfare is also absurd: it takes money to support the infrastructure and air traffic control necessary to operate commercial flights and it is reasonable that airline customers support the infrastructure they use. Airports and air traffic control networks are not privately owned. It is foolishness to think that the government or airport authority is somehow just taking a cut without giving anything in return.
Amendment Offered To House Bill
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D – IL) has offered an amendment to the bill that would strip this provision. The rambunctious Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D – NY) supports this amendment and has urged her colleagues to delete this provision before the House votes on the bill:
“Consumers booking airline tickets deserve to know the full price of a ticket at the start of their transaction to avoid surprise fees and to easily comparison shop. The airline industry is using this must-pass legislation to unravel air travel price transparency laws that have been in place for the last decade.”
She is correct.
Let’s hope the House solves this problem so the Senate does not have to.
The House Transportation Committee has unanimously passed a bill that would allow airlines and online travel agencies to obscure pricing. By slipping this into essential legislation, airline lackeys in Congress are showing their anti-consumer sentiment. There is no valid ground for this provision of the bill.