ASTA Urges DOT to Require Full Transparency on Airline Fees (A)
By Mimi Kmet
June 28, 2012 9:49 PM
As part of its continued call for ancillary fee transparency, Eben Peck, ASTA’s vice president of government affairs, addressed the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection. ASTA urged the committee to submit a recommendation to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood that the upcoming passenger protection rulemaking include a requirement for full transparency and transactability of airline optional services and fees.
The committee is expected to provide its first report to LaHood in October. In his comments, Peck noted that, from ASTA’s point of view, the issue of airline ancillary fee disclosure and transactability is the single most important consumer protection issue being considered by DOT today.
ASTA’s position is simple: The airline industry must provide consumers, working through every channel in which the airlines have elected to distribute their fares, with full transparency of all mandatory and optional charges of consequence and with the ability to buy those optional services. Travel agents seek to be a source of information and purchase for optional services for the millions of travelers they serve, but travel agents cannot disclose that to which they do not have access. It is absurd to suggest that travel agents can simply hunt down the ancillary fee information, transaction by transaction, on hundreds of airline websites whenever they need to know, particularly if they have a customer waiting on the phone, according to ASTA.
The organization further notes that, even when travel agencies have managed to find accurate information about ancillary fees for its customers, they cannot consummate the entire transaction. Failure to require the airlines to share their ancillary fee data will leave millions of consumers without the ability to use their preferred channel and have the benefit of full comparative price shopping.