Travel Webcast

Open Allies applauds fee disclosure rules

Open Allies for Airfare Transparency is applauding the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for adopting a rule requiring improved disclosure of baggage fees that has now come into effect. However, the group noted much more work needs to be done quickly to provide full disclosure of baggage and other major fees, such as for seating and boarding, before purchase, to enable meaningful comparison shopping across airlines of the ‘all-in” (fare+fees+taxes) price of a ticket. DOT has announced plans for a supplementary rule-making to address full disclosure of these fees through all distribution channels airlines choose to use, but recently delayed that rule-making, with the result that consumers likely will not see full disclosure until 2013. Art Sackler, Open Allies’ executive director, commented: “DOT deserves great credit for once again delivering on promises to consumers … but as DOT itself has acknowledged, [the] change doesn’t go far enough. Open Allies agrees, and underscores the urgency of swiftly taking the decisive steps to assure consumers access to all optional fees at every point of sale. Otherwise, consumers face another year, or longer, of confusion and complexity, with no meaningful way to compare offerings across airlines to secure the best deal on the all-in price of air travel.” Open Allies points out in its statement that airlines have disaggregated, or “unbundled,” fees for many services, including baggage, seating and boarding. Details on those fees are not published and updated continuously like the cost of the base airfare. DOT has taken an important step in providing some resolution for consumers on the question for baggage, but these fees, and more than a hundred others, remain functionally “hidden” because they are unavailable for all-in price comparisons across airlines prior to the time of purchase. The group notes as well that with 50% or more of all airline tickets purchased via traditional travel agents or online travel sites, it is imperative that up-to-the-minute and transactable fee information be provided through every distribution channel in which an airline chooses to sell, so that businesses and consumers can fully compare prices and purchase at points of sale of their choosing. And it concludes that the close to 400 members of Open Allies believe the travelling public is entitled to buy airline tickets, including fees for all services they select, based on clear, complete and simple-to-understand-and-compare information. Go to http://www.faretransparency.org for more.

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