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With Airlines Pushing the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, We've Got the DOT's Back

July 14, 2014 at 10:18 AM | by | ()

A few months ago, airlines responded to the Department of Transportation's request for more transparency in pricing by threatening that it would cost an additional fee for them to be upfront about their additional fees. Remember that? Well, get ready to roll your eyes once more. In the face of the DOT's proposal, airlines are lobbying Congress even harder to go the other direction, for the legal right to put an asterisk next to all their prices.

The bill, deceptively titled the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, was proposed by a House committee and, on the surface, says it wants to make taxes clearer on tickets. But what it actually does is allow airlines to advertise their base fares separately from taxes and fees. According to the Dallas Morning News, "the act aims to get rid of the Full Fare Advertising Rule, which went into effect in 2012. That rule requires airlines to show all mandatory federal, state and local government taxes and fees in their advertised fares."

What's even more annoying is that airline advocacy groups are (poorly) spinning their PR wheels to make it seem like it's the government who is out to deceive consumers, and that not including the taxes and fees in the price would restore transparency. But, clearly, airlines just want to be able to legally display prices that are lower than what someone would actually pay (every airline has to add on taxes, so it's not like including them in the price puts airlines at a disadvantage...other than for marketing purposes). This article, for example, (poorly) tries to argue that airlines are doing consumers a disservice by "concealing" government taxes.

Virtually all consumer products are advertised at a base price, with taxes added on at the point of purchase,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) said. “But Department of Transportation regulations have fundamentally and unfairly changed the advertising rules for airfares by requiring all government imposed taxes and fees to be embedded in the advertised price of a ticket. As a result, the fact that Americans are paying higher and higher government imposed taxes and fees to travel by air is being hidden from them. This common sense bill will allow consumers to see the full breakdown of their ticket costs, so they know how much they’re paying for the service, and how much they’re paying in government imposed taxes and fees.

Okay, there's a small point in that including extras in the advertised price lets the government "sneak in taxes," but keep in mind that almost all airlines break down the price when a customer is purchasing it. While an increased awareness of why tickets cost what they do is definitely something we think is important, does it really have to come at the expense of advertisements with asterisks? Does it really have to come at the expense of bait-and-switch marketing? For those who might wonder where Chairman Shuster's loyalties lie, it should be publically known that his campaign has received $125,600 in donations from the air transport industry.

To those who fly regularly and would like to see the true price of their ticket in advertisements, as opposed to a price with an asterisk that does not include taxes, fuel charges, and fees, we suggest you contact your appropriate House representatives and ask them to vote against the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014.

[Photo: Sreengrab]

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