A bill introduced in the House of Representatives seeks to amend the Department of Transportation advertising rules to allow travel agents and airlines to state just the cost of a base air fare.
Currently the DOT requires advertised fares to include all taxes and fees in the first reference, and the total fare must be shown more prominently than the base fare or taxes and fees.
In other words, under current DOT rules, it is correct to advertise a fare as “$300 total ($250 base + $50 taxes and fees)” and a violation to advertise it as “$250 base + $50 T+Fs = $300 total.”
The bill would not change the obligation of a travel seller to disclose the full amount prior to purchase.
Hides govt. taxes
Virtually all consumer products are advertised at a base price, with taxes added on at the point of purchase, said Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who introduced the bill this week with senior committee member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).
He said the fact that “Americans are paying higher and higher government-imposed taxes and fees to travel by air is being hidden from them.”
The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 (H.R 4156) would allow consumers to see how much they are paying for the service and how much they are paying in government-imposed taxes and fees, he said.
DeFazio said that “while the DOT had good intentions, the new rule effectively reduced transparency. Consumers haven’t been getting the whole picture of what an airline ticket pays for.”
Airlines for America, the airline trade association, applauded the introduction of the bill, saying the current regulation “unfairly prohibits airlines and travel agents from providing full disclosure of government-imposed taxes and fees in advertised prices, thereby masking the excessive federal tax rate on the cost of air travel.”
The bill “would bring air travel in line with virtually all other consumer products which are sold at a base price, with taxes added on at the point of purchase,” the association said.
A4A president and chief executive officer Nicholas E. Calio added, “It’s a misnomer to characterize the current law as a consumer protection rule when it really protects the government, not airline passengers.
“It’s disingenuous for Washington to hide the ball and not be held responsible for the taxes they impose on air travel,” Calio said.
ASTA has criticized the DOT rule for extending beyond advertising of prices because it also applies to travel sellers’ presentation of prices to clients, including on offers made in person. ASTA did not have an immediate comment on the Shuster-DeFazio bill.