Less than two years after the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) mandated that airlines and online travel agencies display all-in pricing at all stages of the airfare search, the House of Representatives is considering a bill called the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 that would undo this requirement. The name is deceptive–this bill will cause unnecessary confusion over airfare pricing and does a huge disservice to the traveling public.
Ramrodded by airline industry lobbyists through the House with no hearings or public debate, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 would reverse the 2012 Full Fare Advertising Rule (I wrote about here), allowing airlines to advertise a “base” fare and only show you the taxes/fees and therefore the all-in price on the final payment screen.
The spin: your taxes are too high and if you saw how many taxes were added to your airfare, politicians would be more reluctant to increase them.
As an ardent critic of the TSA, I lament the money wasted each year on funding that horrid organization and am against proposals to increase the “9/11 security fee”. But disguising the all-in pricing of airfare is not the solution. Under current DOT guidelines, airlines are permitted to breakdown taxes and can clearly point out how much of your ticket price is taxes. I welcome the breakdown on the final page that shows the markup on what the airline has actually charged for the ticket.
Let’s not kid ourselves, though…airlines used the old rule framework to disguise their own costs as taxes. “Carrier imposed fee” (fuel surcharges) was lumped into the taxes section, as if fuel is not part of the ticket priced charged. Spirit Airlines charged a “passenger usage fee” of up to $17 that was no tax at all–just a hidden addition to your airfare. All this stopped with the 2012 DOT rules.
Allowing an airline to advertise a “price” for an airfare that rises 15-20+% on the final payment screen is legalized bait-and-switch that does not help consumers make an informed choice when buying airfare.
And it’s not like these government taxes are just excesses by an out-of-touch ruling class. Airport taxes pay for airport infrastructure, security, and immigration. Of course that should be part of an airline ticket price because you need airports, passport control, and security checks to make the world go around. In a libertarian paradise where government does not exist, airlines would have to pay for these services anyway and you would see the same charges in your tickets, only from the airlines rather than the government.
So the bottom line is that this is a terrible law and should be flatly rejected because it hurts, not helps consumers. Few things are more annoying than seeing airfare advertised for $340 and then clicking through to see the actual price is $410…