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DoT: Airlines should disclose ancillary fees before purchases

This is the DoT's third consumer protection measure enacted under President Obama, even as the airlines and certain congressional representative attempt to undo earlier measures.
By Ananth Baliga Follow @antbaliga Contact the Author   |   May 21, 2014 at 2:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- The Department of Transportation proposed rules Wednesday that airlines disclose ancillary fees for checked-in baggage and carry-on items before passengers purchase tickets.

The rules require that airlines inform passengers about these fees when they are comparing prices and not after tickets are purchased. Internet travel sites such as Kayak and Google will now be defined as "ticket agents," and will fall under the DoT's consumer protection guidelines.

"The proposal we're offering today will strengthen the consumer protections we have previously enacted and raise the bar for airlines and ticket agents when it comes to treating travelers fairly," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a press statement.

The new rules would also have airlines accounting for 0.5 percent of domestic scheduled passenger revenue report their on-time performance data, mishandled baggage and over-booking. Earlier airlines would have to report such data if they made 1 percent of domestic passenger revenue.

The DoT is proposing the new rules -- the third consumer protection measure enacted under President Obama -- even as airlines and certain members of the House try to overturn earlier consumer regulations.

"I think that it's good for consumers," said Charlie Leocha, head of the Consumer Travel Alliance and a member of a department panel called the Advisory Committee on Aviation Consumer Protections. "Finally the DOT is going to require airlines to tell consumers how much the full price of travel is."

Another initiative is that large ticket agents must provide minimum customer service, including quick responses to customer complaints and allowing customers to hold quoted fare reservations without payment. Tickets agents who give a certain airline preference would have to disclose this bias to customers.

Carriers have collected $797 million in baggage fees and $675 million in reservation change fees for the fourth quarter of last year, representing three percent of total airline operating revenue for the period. These changes are expected to cost airlines $5.1 million to adopt in the first year, and $24.7 million over the next decade.

The proposed rules have been put up online and the government will accept comments for the next 90 days

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