Baffled and bewildered travelers are getting a break this month, but airlines want to take it away. A welcome federal rule for more disclosure of fares faces industry opposition and a challenge from airline allies in Congress.
The subject is a familiar one for frazzled ticket buyers: What is this trip really going to cost? Airlines and travel websites often list teaser rates to lure consumers. Left out are hefty federal taxes and fees that can add $20 to $40 to the final price of a typical ticket. These extra charges are tacked on to the bill, often after a traveler has arranged a trip that’s hard to reschedule.
Beginning this month, federal transportation authorities are cracking down on the deceptive practice. Airlines and ticket-selling websites are required to include the federal fees and taxes in the basic ticket price. This way a traveler gets a better idea about the true price of a ticket at the start.
The rule by the Department of Transportation was meant to level the competitive playing field and give consumers fairer price quotes. But several airlines — Spirit, Allegiant and Southwest — sued to stop the move. Also, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., has filed legislation to repeal the federal rule.
Making ticket prices fair and understandable shouldn’t be controversial. The move isn’t designed to punish the airline industry, which suffered through price wars, fuel increases and a travel drop-off during the economic downturn. This rule is all about full disclosure to a consumer in the maze of airline ticket prices.
Washington is doing its job by protecting travelers from unfair airline pricing. Giving consumers more information in a confusing marketplace is a goal worth supporting.
San Francisco Chronicle (Feb. 14)