Travel groups slam GOP effort to ditch airline advertising rules

Travel groups slam GOP effort to ditch airline advertising rules
© Getty Images

Travel groups are slamming a Republican effort to nullify the regulations that require airlines to include taxes and fees in price quotes for flight tickets.

The Travel Technology Association and American Society of Travel Agents said the proposal, contained in an amendment to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding measure, "would actually have the opposite effect of its purported intention and further frustrate consumers’ ability to comparison shop. 

"The proposed legislation will reverse a well-reasoned U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) consumer protection regulation on this very issue that was adopted in 2011 and made effective in 2012," the groups wrote in a letter to leaders of the House Transportation Committee. 


"That regulation requires the display of the all-in air fare (including taxes and mandatory fees), but also allows airlines to separately display these taxes and fees in a conspicuous format consistent with the DOT rule," the travel groups continued. "If the purpose of the proposed legislation is to allow airlines to display the level of airline taxes and fees so that the public can be advised, the current DOT regulation already allows this." 

The amendment to eliminate the rules for airfare quotes, which are predominantly given online, was filed by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.). 

The amendment revives an unsuccessful 2014 measure that was dubbed the Transparent Airfares Act. That bill was championed by airline advocates, who argue that the government is hiding taxes from passengers. 

"We believe airline customers deserve to know how much of the advertised ticket price is actually going to federal taxes, while still knowing the full price of air travel before they purchase a ticket," the group that lobbies for most major carriers, Airlines for America, said in a statement that was provided to The Hill on Wednesday. 

"Rep. Curbelo’s amendment will make airfare more transparent for consumers, while also holding Washington accountable for taxes it imposes on everyone who flies," the airline group continued. 

The advertising rules were enacted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in 2012 as part of the administration's push to implement protections for airline customers. Those rules have been dubbed by some observers as the "Passenger Bill of Rights."

The regulations included a ban on holding passengers on airport tarmacs for longer than three hours and a requirement that airlines refund baggage fees when they lose luggage. 

Passenger advocacy groups on Wednesday said the amendment to overturn the 2012 advertising rules for flight tickets is "a gift to airlines." 

"The amendment would effectively reverse [the 2012] DOT rule and undermine a critically important consumer protection that was adopted as a cure to airline bait-and-switch advertising," the Business Travel Coalition said in a statement. 

Lawmakers in the House are scheduled to hold a hearing on the proposed FAA funding measure on Thursday. The agency's funding is currently set to expire on March 31.

The FAA bill is one of the few must-pass pieces of legislation left on the congressional agenda this year. As such, it also represents an opportunity for lawmakers looking for a vehicle on which to attach pet issues.

Most of the debate about the aviation funding bill thus far has been focused on a controversial plan from House Republicans to separate air traffic control from the FAA

The amendment to undo the ticket advertising regulations can be read here