Hidden airline fees may be a thing of the past.
The Biden administration is proposing a new rule that would require airlines and third-party booking sites to “disclose upfront – the first time an airfare is displayed – any fees charged to sit with your child, for changing or cancelling your flight, and for checked or carry-on baggage,” the Department of Transportation announced Monday.
“You should know the full cost of your ticket right when you’re comparison shopping to begin with what airline you’re going to fly with, so you can pick the ticket that actually is the best deal for you,” President Joe Biden said at a White House Competition Council meeting on Monday.
Some travelers are surprised when they have to pay extra for things like carry-on bags or seat selection, but an industry group representing the nation’s largest airlines says they “already offer transparency to consumers from first search to touchdown.”
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Not so hidden fees
“A4A passenger carriers provide details regarding the breakdown of airfares on their websites, providing consumers clarity regarding the total cost of a ticket,” Airlines for America said in a statement to USA TODAY.
“In addition to the total cost, the terms of ticket selection for these options are stated at the time of purchase,” added the group, whose members include American, United, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, Hawaiian and Alaska airlines.
When booking a basic economy flight on Delta Air Lines, for example, customers are prompted to accept clearly stated restrictions before booking the lower-priced fare. Spirit Airlines, which is not part of Airlines for America, also lists what kinds of fees passengers can expect and walks customers through various add-ons in the booking process.
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Why make a rule?
The Department of Transportation acknowledges fees are listed on airline websites.
“But it’s difficult to determine the cost of travel because airlines generally provide a range of fees for ancillary services except for baggage,” a Department of Transportation spokesperson told USA TODAY, noting that fees can vary based on a number of factors including the type of aircraft used and when passengers pay for the related service. “For baggage, although carriers and ticket agents are required today to inform consumers during the booking process that airline fees for baggage may apply and where consumers can see baggage fees, consumers are often diverted to complex charts that are confusing.”
The newly proposed rule would require fees to be listed up front, not in links or anything customers would have to navigate to separately. Additionally, any airlines that charge fees for adjacent seating would be required to allow passengers traveling with young children to be able to purchase adjacent seating “at all points of sale.”
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When would the rule take effect?
Before a rule can be made, a 60-day public comment period is required following the proposal’s publication in the Federal Register. A final rule can only be made after public comments are considered.
This proposed rule stems from an executive order Biden issued July aimed at increasing economic competition within the federal government.
Airlines for America said its members are already “very competitive.”