Airlines Continue To
Deceive Passengers On Ticket Prices
By Jim Douglas
January 31, 2012 - Business Travel Coalition (BTC) transmitted a letter signed by some 150 organizations to Congressional conference committee members negotiating a long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Signatories urged conferees to include language that
will prevent some airlines from continuing to violate
Section 41712 of the U.S. Federal Aviation Act.
Specifically, these industry-leading organizations ask that Congress direct the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to within 180 days require airlines to disclose optional fee information (e.g., checked baggage charges, at-airport ticketing fees, etc.) in the same electronic and transactable formats used to publish airfares themselves.
Signatories to the letter expressed to conferees that Section
41712 prohibits ?unfair or deceptive? practices in the sale of
air transportation by airlines and ticket agents. The continuing
failure of airlines to share information about their optional
fees with ticket agents violates Section 41712 by making it
impossible for consumers to efficiently compare air
transportation costs among competing providers.
consumer-protection rules introduced by DOT last week require
airlines to disclose on their websites if there will be
additional baggage fees and where consumers can go to find them.
This is a positive step but the rule does little to facilitate
comparison-shopping, and applies to just one of many optional
continue to pay supra premium prices -- billions of dollars in
fees -- for optional services because the inability to
efficiently compare the total cost of air travel (base airfares
and fees) on an apples-to-apples basis across multiple airlines
guarantees that these prices go undisciplined by the
marketplace. This greatly frustrates individual consumers as
well as major corporations that purchase millions of dollars in
air transportation services.
Crandall, retired Chairman of American Airlines, thinks the
airlines will serve both themselves and consumers by offering
comprehensive information to customers. ?As we all know,? Mr.
Crandall said, ?consumers do not hold the airline industry in
high regard, despite the extraordinary job the airlines have
done of providing the public with safe and affordably priced
?I don?t know why
the airlines seem so opposed to disclosing information on the websites
consumers use, since consumers will find out the real cost of travel
when they actually fly, and I should think that taking away a source of
aggravation for their customers would be high on the industry?s self
help list. Why make your customers angry when you have nothing to gain??
BTC believes that
given the rapidly expanding list of optional services, airlines should
indeed want to benefit from accelerated consumer acceptance of optional
fees and sales revenues possible only through traditional
brick-and-mortar and online travel agency points-of-sale as well as
through corporate online booking tools utilized by millions of business
travelers. However, for three and one-half years, despite the
substantial purchasing power of major corporations, and their continuing
calls for fee transparency, airlines have refused to provide optional
BTC Chairman Kevin Mitchell stated, ?Unfortunately, normal competitive forces will not alleviate this problem. If one airline were to include comprehensive information on optional fees, that carrier would be disadvantaged because the cost of transportation on that carrier would appear ? to the unaware consumer ? to be higher than the cost of travel on its competitors. The federal government can uniquely solve this problem for airlines unable to act independently and for consumers being financially harmed.?
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