New DOT Proposal Could Force Airlines to Start Being More Transparentby Daniel McCarthy /
A new rule from the Department of Transportation (DOT) could give consumers more clarity when they are booking airline tickets.
In a news release, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a new rule that would force airlines to be transparent about all additional fees prior to final payment from a traveler. Buttigieg said that the change was aimed at giving airline passengers “the full, true cost of their flights before they buy a ticket.”
“This new proposed rule would require airlines to be transparent with customers about the fees they charge, which will help travelers make informed decisions and save money,” he said.
The new rule would require airlines to disclose fees for ancillary items such as seat selection or checked baggage, along with fees for canceling or changing your flight. These fees would be required to be displayed as passenger-specific or itinerary-specific based on the consumer’s choice, the DOT said, though it would not require airlines to share the fee information in a specific way.
The DOT also added that, because seat availability and fees can fluctuate, “The Department is also proposing to require carriers and ticket agents to enable consumers traveling with a young child to purchase the seats with the fare at all points of sale.”
The DOT is currently accepting comments on the change, which can be made here. The change is still pending publication in the Federal Register.
While the news appears to be good news for consumers who are increasingly wary of a lack of transparency, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) said on Tuesday that the rule's passage could increase the burden on travel advisors. In a statement, ASTA's Eben Peck applauded the rule as a "step in the right direction" but said that ASTA has some "serious concerns."
“ASTA has long believed that consumers deserve full transparency in airfares and optional ancillary service fees, as well as the ability to buy those services (‘transactability’), regardless of the channel in which they elect to book their travel. Viewed through that lens, the DOT’s proposal is a step in the right direction in that it requires airlines to provide travel agencies with ancillary fee information that is ‘usable, accurate and accessible in realtime’ and mandates transactability for some fees (those that enable family seating)," Peck said.
“That said, ASTA has serious concerns about the effect the requirement to disclose multiple fees in each and every ‘offline’ transaction (over-the-phone and face-to-face) – even to repeat customers and frequent fliers – will have on agency operations. In its last proposed rulemaking on this topic in 2017, it mandated these disclosures only upon the customer’s request. It should do so again here.
“As with the Department’s separate proposal on airline refunds, we will consult with ASTA members and allied organizations, file comments, and otherwise work around the clock to protect the interests of our members and their clients.”