Consumer advocacy organizations are opposing a recent decision by the Trump administration to scrap two proposals that were forwarded during the previous administration, regarding the disclosure of baggage and other ancillary fees.
The Department of Transportation proposals would have called for airlines to reveal fees for checked and carry on items before a ticket is purchased. Airlines would have also been made to offer more information about how much revenue they receive from other ancillary fees.
The consumer groups argued that dashing the proposals would mean that consumer cannot compare shop any longer.
Airlines are already required by law to reveal optional service fees on their websites. However, critics claim that the fees should be included in the ticketing process for more transparency.
“This withdrawn rulemaking was created to allow airline consumers to determine the full cost of travel, including airfare as well as ancillary fees together with their exceptions and exemptions,” said the Travelers United, a membership organization that represents travelers,.
“Without clear, public data available to travel agents and on the Internet, travelers find it impossible to effectively comparison shop. By withholding this information from normal airline ticket sales channels, the airlines are misleading consumers about the true cost of travel,” the group continued in their statement.
The group’s President and co-founder, Charles Leocha, described the move by the Department of Transportation’s as a “slap in the face to the free market.”
He went on to say that consumer groups must keep on pushing back, starting with looking for new methods to keep fees transparent. This may include getting more lawmakers involved since the proposals are all but dead in the water.
Leocha said the proposals were “an examination and discussion about airline price transparency and how consumers can get the full price of an airline ticket.” He added that by withdrawing the proposals, the practices of the airlines’ transparency are not at all being talked about.
Although the proposals had been placed on standby by the administration earlier in 2017, it eventually last month that those would be dropped, noting that they were “of limited public benefit.”
Consumer Reports’ Aviation Adviser, William McGee, also denounced the announcement, saying:
“We strongly disagree that these proposed rules are ‘of limited public benefit’ or would cause airlines to incur significant costs.”
“In fact, enhanced pricing transparency benefits both consumers and competition within the airline industry.”
Airlines however, lauded the decision and even commended the Trump administration and Department of Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, for their call.
Airlines for America, an organization that represents airlines including American, United, and Southwest, praised the administration for “recognizing that airlines, like all other businesses, need the freedom to determine which third-parties they do business with and how best to market, display and sell their products.
“The DOT’s decision to let airlines and third-parties determine their commercial parameters is a win for consumers, and represents a much-welcomed shift from a decades-long Washington practice of micromanagement and regulatory interference,” shared Sharon Pinkerton, Senior Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory policy at Airlines for America.
Airlines for America said that they are aware of consumer complaints filed with the Department of Transportation and say that consumers these days are much more expressive about their, including flight delays. The association also defended the transparency that already exists.
“It would be difficult to find an industry that is more transparent than the airlines, as all pricing information is readily available to travelers at the click of a button,” relayed Pinkerton.
“I would also note that the majority of customers do not pay for baggage, either because of their loyalty to the airline, they carry an airline credit card, or they simply do not check a bag,” she added.