On January 26th, the U.S. Department of Transportation began requiring airlines to quote fares that include all mandatory taxes and fees. Prior to this new requirement going into effect, airlines could advertise the cost of a ticket as just the base fare without taxes and fees. Many times you didn’t see the taxes and fees until you were in the process of purchasing the ticket. The new requirement forces the airlines to advertise ticket prices at the actual price you would pay for the ticket.
Prior to the change, I had shopped for airline tickets, found what looked like a really good fare, and then discovered that the advertised fare was not the real price because there were a bunch of fees that would be added before I paid for a ticket. When shopping for the lowest fare, I was frequently frustrated because of the difference between what was advertised and the actual cost. It was a good effort on the part of the DOT to fix this. However, the fix may be short-lived.
On February 1st, Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) introduced a new bill in the House of Representatives, the Travel Transparency Act (HR-3867). This bill has 31 co-sponsors, and all of them are Republicans. The bill claims it would discontinue the practice of hiding taxes and fees in advertised airfares. Essentially, this bill would allow the airlines to go back to how they were advertising airfares before the DOT rule change. Why did Rep. Graves feel the need to introduce this bill? A spokeswoman for Graves stated that some constituents started asking questions about the DOT ruling on the same day that Rep. Graves was approached by airline industry representatives about the DOT ruling(1). Translation, the airline industry lobby went to Graves with a way to fix a rule that they do not like.
The bottom line is that I want to know the total cost of an airline ticket when I am shopping. I really don’t care what fees or taxes have to be included. If airlines want me to buy from them, they need to price their tickets competitively. It will not surprise me if the airlines succeed in getting the DOT ruling reversed. Just another day in Washington politics.