Dems back bill to boost airfare transparency

Dems back bill to boost airfare transparency
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A pair of House Democrats introduced new legislation Wednesday to boost transparency on airfares after the Trump administration halted an Obama-era rule aimed at achieving a similar goal.

The bill, backed by House Transportation ranking member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rep. Rick LarsenRick LarsenTrump's 'infrastructure week' goes off the rails Pence heralds ‘banner week’ for infrastructure House Dems: Trump’s air traffic control plan would give away government assets for free MORE (D-Wash.), would require airlines and ticket agents to disclose all checked and carry-on bag fees before customers purchase a ticket.

It would also require airlines to let passengers know whether they provide services such as hotel accommodations or food vouchers in the event of widespread network disruptions, flight cancellations and delays.

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“When consumers shop around for an airline fare, they deserve to know exactly what they are getting before spending hundreds of dollars on a ticket,” DeFazio said. “This legislation will guarantee that airlines disclose bag fees up front so that consumers will not break the bank on these ancillary charges after they click ‘buy.’”

The measure comes in the wake of the Department of Transportation (DOT) announcing last week it would suspend the comment period on an Obama-era proposal requiring airlines and ticket agents to display baggage fees at the start of a fare inquiry.

That proposal, unveiled in January, was supposed to accept public feedback until March 20 on whether to disclose fees alongside fares.

The DOT indicated that the pause was implemented to “allow the president's appointees to review and consider this action.”

President Trump implemented a freeze on issuing new regulations after taking office, with the White House instructing federal agencies to postpone the effective date of rules that had already been published in the Federal Register.

The DOT's decision received industry praise, with Airlines for America President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio calling the action a “common sense measure reinforcing that the airline industry is capable of making the decisions that best serve our customers, our employees and the communities we serve.”

DeFazio and Larsen’s legislation also comes in response to several high-profile computer outages at airlines in recent years that sparked major delays or flight cancellations. There were reports of travelers stranded at airports and sleeping on floors without knowing whether their airline was going to provide food, hotel vouchers or seats on another air carrier.

“Unexpected fees and lengthy delays are two surefire ways to ruin someone’s trip,” said Larsen, the top Democrat on the House Transportation subcommittee on aviation.

“By requiring airlines to be more transparent about baggage fees and how they will help passengers affected by large-scale network meltdowns, this bill would institute long-overdue consumer protections for folks who fly," he said.