clear
Friday July 31st, 2015 3:23AM

Gov't: Airlines should disclose bag, seat fees

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Going to bat for confused passengers, the government is proposing that airlines be required to disclose fees for basic items like checked bags, assigned seats and carry-on bags so consumers know the true cost of flying.

Under new regulations proposed Wednesday by the Transportation Department, detailed fee information would have to be provided wherever passengers buy tickets, whether online, on the phone or in person.

Currently, airlines are only required to disclose bag fees, and even then they don't have to provide an exact price. Some airlines provide a range of possible fees in sometimes complex charts. The proposed rule would require the disclosure of the exact amount of fees for basic services, including first and second checked bags. The rule doesn't cover fees for early boarding, curbside check-in and other services.

The government also wants to expand its definition of a "ticket agent" so that consumer regulations like the fee-disclosure requirement apply to online flight search tools like Kayak and Expedia even though they don't actually sell tickets.

Many consumers are unable to determine the true cost of a ticket because fees are often hard to find or decipher, the government says.

"A customer can buy a ticket for $200 and find themselves with a hidden $100 baggage fee, and they might have turned down a $250 ticket with no baggage fee, but the customer was never able to make that choice," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in an interview.

"The more you arm the consumer with information, the better the consumer's position to make choices," Foxx said.

The public has 90 days to comment on the proposal. Foxx said he hopes the rule will become final within the next year.

The effort is partly a response to changes in airline industry business strategy since 2008, when carriers started taking services out of the price of tickets, beginning with checked bags.

More recently, some airlines have begun offering consumers not only a stripped-down "base" airfare, but also a choice of several packages with some of the once-free services added back into the cost of a ticket, but at higher prices. With packages and a la carte fees multiplying, comparison shopping for airfares is becoming more difficult, consumer advocates say.

The department also proposes expanding the pool of airlines required to report performance measures like late flights, lost bags and passengers bounced from flights due to overbooking. Currently, only airlines that account for at least 1 percent of the market must report performance measures, which the department posts online in its Air Travel Consumer Report. The proposed regulations would include carriers that account for little as 0.5 percent of the market. That would bring in discount carrier Spirit Airlines and many regional air carriers.

The proposal also would:

- Require large travel agencies to adopt "minimum customer service standards," such as responding promptly to customer complaints and providing an option to hold a reservation at the quoted fare without payment for 24 hours if made more than a week ahead of the flight.

- Require airlines and ticket agents to disclose whether the ticket being sold is for a flight operated by another carrier under a partnership arrangement. For example, United Airlines sells tickets for flights operated as "United Express" by several regional airlines. But the planes and crews belong to the regional carrier.

- Prohibit "unfair and deceptive" practices by airfare search tools, such as ranking flights by some airlines ahead of others without disclosing that bias to consumers.

The proposed rules are the Obama administration's third wave of consumer protections for airline passengers. The effort began with a ban on so-called tarmac strandings in which passengers were cooped up in planes for hours, sometimes in miserable conditions. Facing the prospect of fines of as much as $27,500 per passenger, airlines have nearly eliminated such incidents by canceling flights in advance of severe weather.

Other previously adopted regulations include tougher requirements for compensating passengers denied boarding because of overbooking and a requirement that airlines, travel agents and online ticketing sites display full airfares, including taxes and government fees, more prominently than base airfares. Previously, airlines often advertised base airfares and buried mention of taxes and government fees - typically about 20 percent of the ticket price - in fine print.

The airline industry has clashed with the administration over some of the regulations, especially the requirement that taxes and fees be included in advertised fares. Several airlines sued in federal court to overturn the rule, but the court sided with the government, and the Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal.

Airlines have taken their case to Congress, where a House committee recently approved a bill that would effectively nullify the rule and allow airlines to return to displaying base fares and adding in taxes and fees later.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 6 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 6 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 6 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 6 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 6 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 6 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 6 months ago )
Local/State News
Congress heading on vacation, putting off messy decisions
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional lawmakers are heading for recess and leaving behind a pile of unfinished business.Not long after they return in September, members of the House and Senate face a vote o...
3:10AM ( 13 minutes ago )
Rescuers hope for 'best-case scenario' for boys lost at sea
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Mustering hope for a "best-case scenario" in the face of countless unknowns, search crews braced for a seventh day and night at sea Thursday in the hunt for two teenagers...
6:22PM ( 9 hours ago )
Democrats consider distance from Jefferson, Jackson
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Democratic parties in the three states that start the presidential nominating process are exploring ending their association with two former White House occupants: Thomas Jefferso...
4:41PM ( 10 hours ago )
Afghan Taliban confirm Mullah Omar's death, choose successor
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban confirmed the death of longtime leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and appointed his successor Thursday, as a new round of peace talks was indefinitely postponed amid co...
4:19PM ( 11 hours ago )
3.3 million dry erase boards recalled after due to cut risk
NEW YORK (AP) — Acco Brands Corp. is recalling about 3.3 million wall-mounted dry erase boards after customers said they cut their hands, fingers and feet while removing the board from a wall.The U.S....
12:33PM ( 14 hours ago )