National Consumers League

Flying high, the airlines look to push anti-consumer legislation through Congress


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Republished with permission from Flyersrights.org. The airlines are at it yet again. Those deceptive and infuriating ads that were banned years ago are sneaking back.

AirportMaking its way thorough the U.S. House, without public submissions or any debate, is a bill called H.R. 4156, deceptively named the "Transparent Airfares Act of 2014". Translation: the "Keep Air Travelers in the Dark Act".

Written by airline lobbyists, this bill is completely anti-consumer while at the same time denigrating customers and constituents alike. It is all about makingairfares less transparent. The name of the bill is just the start of the false advertising.

It is a thoroughly corrupt racket being perpetrated against the very taxpayers that have repeatedly bailed out the airlines time after time.

How would a proposed 'Transparent' Law mislead consumers? It seeks to overturn and reverse our hard-fought 2012 Department of Transportation ruling that requires the airlines to prominently feature the full total price of their airfares.

The proposed law would give airlines free rein to quote artificially low ticket prices, minus taxes and government fees, leaving you with the mistaken belief that your total airfare is far cheaper than it is.

The supporters of this bill want airlines to be able to advertise a flight without the fees and taxes added on. For example, a $300 flight would be advertised for $239 - omitting the fees and taxes.

The DOT's advertising rules were meant to eliminate shocking surprise fees and add transparency to the airfare booking process.

So the first question is, who in our Congress is responsible for attempting to perpetrate this deception?

They are Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the sponsors of the bill, who also happen to be members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Review  the list of co-sponsors at http://btcnews.co/Rlxfy2.

Second question, how much did the airlines give to the re-election campaigns of the sponsors of this bill?

CONGRESS DRINKS THE AIRLINE KOOL-AID

The airlines dupe Congress again and again, blogs the Travel Insider. There is no justification for this legislation, which is why there was no debate allowed prior to approving the bill and passing it out of its markup stage and sending it on to the full House.
Transparency or confusion?

According to Reps Shuster and DeFazio, the American public "wants" and is "calling for" this law.

The problem with that assertion is that it is untrue. There are NO consumer groups actively supporting this bill.  In fact, FlyersRights and virtually all other aviation consumer groups are strongly OPPOSED to it.

Another argument for this legislation is that it exposes the level of taxes and fees the government imposes on air travel.

But why would any congressman wish to expose their greedy grab of such a large slice of our air travel expenditures, the Travel Insider asks athttp://btcnews.co/1hR12DK.

All airlines are already free to make as prominent a statement as they choose about how much of the ticket price you pay goes to the government and what it is for.

Another of the bill's justifications is that it places the same disclosure rules on airfares as on anything else you'd buy.

Yes it's true prices are usually quoted without sales tax, yet that is necessary because sales tax rates vary not only from state to state and from county to county, but even from city to city.  Air taxes and fees are a constant for any given airline, route and fare, no matter where the ticket is purchased.

Gas prices are a lot like airfare pricing - the price per gallon of gas includes all federal, state and local taxes and fees.

Imagine if gas stations were to start advertising just the base cost of the gas on their signs, and only after you'd filled your tank you discovered the total cost!

What this legislation would most risk is a return to the most egregious examples of 'bait and switching' where you'd see a low advertised airfare, but only after getting all excited, and working through 95% towards paying it, do you then discover a morass of fees and surcharges - carrier imposed as well as government imposed - that total more than double the price you thought you were going to pay.

The airline industry, along with banking, cable and telecommunications, oil, healthcare, and numerous others, want less regulation, but they have demonstrated, time and time again that they are incapable of regulating themselves.

The consumer deserves to have the final price of an airline ticket prominently displayed BEFORE taking out a credit card to pay for it.  As it is today, the consumer CAN see the whole price before booking, no last-page surprises--and that should never be changed.

Please contact your congressional representatives and ask them to vote against HR 4156, the Transparent Airfares Act, because it does not promote transparent airfares, but rather does quite the opposite.