In January, the Obama-era U.S. Department of Transportation laid out a proposal that would’ve required airlines and ticket agencies to disclose baggage fees “as soon as passengers start the process of buying a ticket,” reports The Hill. This week, for reasons I can’t even begin to grasp, President Donald Trump’s transportation department scrapped the idea.
If you regularly search for a flight online, you’re probably aware of this: the prices that show up on an initial Google search don’t reflect the actual cost of a ticket. That’s because service fees typically aren’t included up front. Consumer groups lobbied to change that, and a proposal at the U.S. Department of Transportation—issued Jan. 9—would’ve required airlines and ticket agencies to disclose baggage fees from the get go.
Here’s the exact language of the proposal:
The [rule] proposed to require air carriers, foreign air carriers, and ticket agents to clearly disclose to consumers at all points of sale customer-specific fee information, or itinerary-specific information if a customer elects not to provide customer-specific information, for a first checked bag, a second checked bag, and one carry-on bag wherever fare and schedule information is provided to consumers.
Seems reasonable, yeah? I know, for instance, Spirit charges $40 or more to bring a bag with you, but that’s not immediately obvious if you’re searching for tickets online. That’s why consumer groups tried to get this enacted—it’s far easier to compare ticket prices up front, if you can understand the optional service fees attached to them.
The U.S. Transportation Department, led by Secretary Elaine Chao, ended a period for comments on the proposal in March, and have spent the intervening months reviewing it. This week, Chao concluded it wasn’t necessary.
“The Department is committed to protecting consumers from hidden fees and to ensuring transparency,” the department wrote on Tuesday. “However, we do not believe that Departmental action is necessary to meet this objective at this time. The Department’s existing regulations already provide consumers some information regarding fees for ancillary services.”
We already get some information on fees—so what’s the need for more? Sheesh.
Airlines, I’m sure, are thrilled.