Biden administration proposes rule calling for airline fee transparency
Hidden airline fees may be a thing of the past.
The Biden administration is proposing a new rule that would require airlines and third-party booking sites to “disclose in advance – the first time an airline ticket is displayed – any fees charged for sitting with your child, to change or cancel your flight, and to check or carry-on baggage,” the Department for Transportation announced on Monday.
“You need to know the total cost of your ticket as soon as you start making comparisons with the airline you’re going to be flying with, so you can choose the ticket that’s actually the best deal for you,” said Chairman Joe Biden. during a meeting of the White House Competition Council on Monday.
Some travelers are surprised when they have to pay extra for things like carry-on bags or seat selection, but an industry group representing the country’s biggest airlines says they “already offer transparency to consumers, from the first landing search”.
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Not so hidden fees
“A4A passenger carriers provide airfare breakdown details on their websites, providing consumers with clear information on the total cost of a ticket,” Airlines for America said in a statement to USA TODAY.
“In addition to the total cost, ticket selection requirements for these options are set forth at the time of purchase,” added the group, whose members include American, United, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, Hawaiian and Alaskan airlines. .
When booking a basic economy flight on Delta Air Lines, for example, customers are asked to agree to clearly stated restrictions before booking the lowest fare. Spirit Airlines, which is not part of Airlines for America, also lists the types of fees passengers can expect and walks customers through various add-ons in the booking process.
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Why make a rule?
The Department of Transportation acknowledges that charges are listed on airline websites.
“But determining the cost of travel is difficult because airlines generally offer a range of charges for ancillary services, except baggage,” a Department of Transportation spokesperson told USA TODAY, noting that charges may vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of aircraft used and when passengers pay for the relevant service. “For baggage, although carriers and ticket agents are now required to inform consumers during the booking process that airfare charges for baggage may apply and consumers can see the charges bags, consumers are often diverted to confusingly complex charts.”
The proposed new rule would require fees to be listed up front, not in links or anything that customers would have to navigate separately. In addition, all airlines that charge a fee for adjacent seats would be required to allow passengers traveling with young children to be able to purchase adjacent seats “at all outlets”.
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When would the rule come into effect?
Before a rule can be made, a 60-day public comment period is required after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. A final rule can only be made after consideration of public comments.
This proposed rule stems from an executive order Biden issued in July aimed at increasing economic competition within the federal government.
Airlines for America said its members are already “very competitive.”