U.S. consumers could soon have more protection against hidden airline fees, if a proposed rule from the Biden administration is finalized.
According to a Monday notice of proposed rulemaking from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the proposed rule “would significantly strengthen protections for consumers.”
“The airline industry relies on opacity,” said Joe Brancatelli, editor of JoeSentMe.com, a noncommercial website for business travelers, in an interview this week with Audacy radio station KCBS in San Francisco, Calif., He said that similar rules were proposed in 2015 and 2017.
The Department of Transportation said the current proposal would work to ensure “any fees charged to seat a young child with an accompanying adult, change or cancel a flight, or travel with a first checked bag, a second checked bag, or a carry-on bag would be disclosed,” by airlines selling tickets to, within or from the U.S.
However, “many of the same underlying problems remain,” according to Brancatelli.
“You’re going to have a problem trying to figure out how to display all this information in a way that makes sense to consumer, and of course, you’ve got the airlines that don’t want to do it at all,” he explained.
According to the Department of Transportation, the rule would require fees to be displayed as passenger-specific or itinerary-specific based on the consumer’s choice. It would also require airlines (along with ticket agents) that charge passengers for adjacent seats to their children to enable consumers traveling with young children to purchase adjacent seats at all points of sale.
“The Department further proposes to require that carriers provide useable, current, and accurate information to ticket agents regarding baggage fees, change fees, cancellation fees, and adjacent seating fees for families traveling with young children, if any, to ticket agents that sell or display the carrier’s fare and schedule information,” said the Monday notice. “The Department does not dictate the method that carriers would use to share fee information with ticket agents.”
Comments on the proposed rule will be collected for 60 days following the date it is published in the federal register. Comments can be filed on www.regulations.gov for docket number DOT-OST-2022-0109.