House of Representatives Votes to Allow Airlines to Hide Taxes and Fees when Advertising Flight Prices
Some federal lawmakers have decided commercial airlines should be able to once again hide the true cost of flying from consumers.
In adopting the misleadingly named legislation, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, the House of Representatives wants to give U.S. carriers the power to advertise just the base cost of airline tickets, minus extras like taxes and airline fees.
Airlines used to market their flights this way, until the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approved a 2012 regulation, the Full Fare Advertising Rule, which mandated the industry advertise the total price consumers will pay for their flights, taxes and fees included.
Conservatives want to do away with that rule, claiming all-inclusive advertised prices are anti-transparent because they hide government taxes and fees. To them, the “true cost” of flying doesn’t include fees and taxes, even if they can add up to a third of the base price.
Backers of the bill include Americans for Tax Reform, founded by conservative Grover Norquist, and Airlines for America, an industry trade group.
The legislation cleared the House on a voice vote, something lawmakers like to do to avoid a roll-call vote that records who voted for a measure that might not sit well with constituents.
Opponents of the bill included the Business Travel Coalition, which represents corporate travel agents. The coalition’s chairman, Kevin Mitchell, called the plan “Orwellian,” according to MarketWatch. He added: “Why would some members of Congress who are ardent free market advocates support a bill that obscures prices?”
Mitchell pointed out that if airlines want consumers to see the ticket price broken down to show fees and taxes, they’re welcome to do so. “Airlines falsely claim, and continue to double-down in the press, that the DOT rule forces them to bury taxes. The opposite, of course, is true. Airlines can list these amounts in an advertisement or solicitation so long as they are less prominently displayed than the total airfare,” Mitchell said. “Airlines can list all taxes on ticket itineraries and further remind passengers of the taxes when printing out boarding passes. They simply choose not to.”
The bill now goes to the Senate, where its chances of passage are unclear. It probably would not be approved on its own, but could get attached to must-pass legislation such as Federal Aviation Administration authorization.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley
To Learn More:
Congress Wants To Revive ‘Lower’ Advertised Airfares (by Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch)
Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 Shouldn’t be Cleared for Takeoff (Consumer Reports)
Consumer Groups Continue Fight over Airfare Advertising (by Gregory Karp, Chicago Tribune)
H.R. 4156: Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 (GovTrack.us)
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