January 29 - Conference Committee Signatory Letter


SIGNATORY LETTER


January 29, 2012

Chairman John Mica

Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II

Chairman Thomas E. Petri

Ranking Member Jerry F. Costello

 

Chairman Jay Rockefeller

Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison

Chairman Maria Cantwell

Ranking Member John Thune

 

Dear FAA Reauthorization Conference Committee Members,

We the undersigned corporations and travel management companies (TMCs) understand that you have many important issues to resolve in reconciling competing FAA reauthorization bills. We hope you will give careful consideration to including language that will prevent the airlines from continuing to violate Section 41712 of the U.S. Federal Aviation Act. Specifically, we ask that you direct the U.S. DOT to within 180 days require airlines to disclose optional fee information (e.g., checked baggage charges, at-airport ticketing fees, etc.) in the same electronic and transactable formats used to publish airfares themselves.

Section 41712 of the Federal Aviation Act prohibits “unfair or deceptive” practices in the sale of air transportation by airlines and TMCs. In our opinion, the continuing failure of airlines to share information about their optional fees with TMCs violates that rule by making it impossible for us and other consumers to efficiently compare air transportation costs among competing providers.

For three and one-half years, despite our substantial collective purchasing power and our continuing calls for fee transparency, airlines have refused to provide TMCs with this vital information. Unfortunately, normal competitive forces will not alleviate this problem. If one airline were to include comprehensive information on optional fees, that carrier would be disadvantaged because the cost of transportation on that carrier would appear – to the unaware consumer – to be higher than the cost of travel on its competitors. Additionally, since most airlines using TMCs prefer that consumers not be aware of the true cost of travel, failing to provide information on optional fees in appropriate electronic formats enables them to prevent the comparative price searches that are the basis for effective competition.

In today’s world, the marketplace winner is not the airline offering the best value, but the one that does the best job of concealing its true all-in prices. The airlines contend that static lists of their respective fees, available on their individual websites, represent adequate notification to customers. However, since there are hundreds of thousands of possible fare and fee combinations, routings and competitors for any given trip, it is completely impractical for any purchaser to use such static lists to construct side-by-side actual cost comparisons. The only way for consumers to know what a given trip is going to cost is to use the power of computers to construct, from among competitive alternatives, comparative actual travel costs. That can happen only if the airlines provide optional fee information in the same electronic, transactable formats used to provide fare information.

Satisfying our request will not impose insuperable burdens on the airline industry. The airlines have built a very low-cost transmission system for the dissemination of fees through the airline-owned Airline Tariff Publishing Company. Unfortunately, a dysfunctional marketplace has incentivized them to withhold, rather than provide, electronic information about the roughly $10 billion in optional fees they now collect annually.

A full disclosure requirement does not represent DOT “re-regulation,” as some airlines have asserted, but rather fundamental consumer protection under existing law. As a result of federal preemption, DOT is the sole consumer-protection agency for air travelers. The marketplace, state consumer protection laws and the Federal Trade Commission, which has no jurisdiction over airline disclosures, cannot resolve this problem.

We ask that you preserve competition in the airline industry by directing DOT to promptly require appropriate disclosure of airline optional fees.

Sincerely,

A & I Travel Service, Inc.

A Plus Travel Adventures

A&P Cruises and Tours

Action Travel

Advent Travel Leaders

Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission

Aker Business Services Inc.

All About Travel, Inc.

All Seasons Travel/American Express

American Residential Services LLC

American Society of Travel Agents

American Traffic Solutions

ANTHONY TRAVEL

ArthroCare Corporation

Artisans of Travel

Artisans of Travel

Association for Airline Passenger Rights

Association of Canadian Travel Agencies

BAC Travel Dept.

Balboa Travel Inc.

Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation

Bear Air International

BEC TravelCorporation/dba Willamette Intl. Travel

BizTravelSolutions, LLC

Blue Ribbon Business Travel International, Inc.

Boeing

Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.

Buon Viaggio Travel

Bursch Travel Agency, Inc.

Business Travel Coalition

BYU-Idaho/CWT

Caldwell Travel, Inc.

Cannon Design

CI Travel

Clean Seal, Inc.

Columbus McKinnon Corporation

Colwick Travel

Courtesy Travel

Cresta World Travel

CSC

DHL

Dollar Tree

Egencia, an Expedia Inc. Company

EILEENS TRAVEL, INC.

El Sol Travel inc.

Federal Mogul

FreemanWhite

Friendly Travel Inc.

GAF Materials Corporation

Gartner

Get-A-Way Travel

Gibraltar Industries, Inc.

Glen Travel Ltd

Global Travel

Goss International Corporation

Hampshire Group Limited

Harolds Travel

HealthCare California

Healthnow NY

Hidden Treasure Tours, Inc

Holcim (Australia)

Ingersoll Rand

J Walker Service Group LLC

Jade Travel

Journeys Unlimited Inc.

Just Marketing International

Keystone Foods LLC

Kraft Foods Global Inc.

Liberty Global Europe Ltd

LXR Travel

Manassas Travel/Travel Leaders

Maquet CV

Marcellus Institute

Mark IV, LLC

Mennonite Health Services Alliance

Merck KGaA

Meridia Audience Response

Metro Travel & Tours, Inc.

Metrohm USA, Inc.

Midwest ISO

MKI Travel and Conference Management Inc.

National Fire Protection Association

National Recreational Flyers

Nationwide Intelligence, Inc.

NCR Corporation

NetApp

New Era Cap

Niagara University

Orbitz

Ottawa Hills Travel - Travel Leaders

Palm Coast Imports

Plug Power Inc.

Provisur Technologies Inc.

Pyramid Travel of Wisconsin INc

Pyramid Travel of Wisconsin INc

Rawhide Travel and Tours, Incorporated of Arizona

Retrotech, Inc.

ROBERTA'S TRAVEL SOLUTIONS

Sabre Travel Network

San Diego Travel Group, Inc

Signature Destinations

SKF USA Inc.

Spears Travel / Travel Leaders

Stantec Consulting

Stepan Company

STERIS Corporation

Sterling Jewelers

Sun Chemical Corporation

Sybase, Inc.

Synacor, Inc.

Tangibility, Inc., d.b.a. Travelplanners

The Regence Group

The Remington Group Ltd

The Schwan Food Company

The Travel Company Edinburgh

Town & Country Travel

TRADYTEC

Travel Advisors International

Travel Leaders

TRAVEL LEADERS N.OLMSTED OHIO

Travel Leaders of Illinois

Travel Management Options

TRAVEL TIME TRAVEL AGENCY, INC.

Traveline Travel

Travelink, American Express

Travelocity

TravelStore, Inc.

Tunnell Consulting

UCB Pharma

University of Notre Dame

USTravel

Victaulic

Vista Travel Inc.

Westfield Group

Wood Travel

World Travel Inc.

WorldTravelService


COPY:

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

DEMOCRATS

Inouye, Daniel K. (HI)

Kerry, John F. (MA)

Boxer, Barbara (CA)

Nelson, Bill (FL)

Lautenberg, Frank R. (NJ)

Pryor, Mark L. (AR)

McCaskill, Claire (MO)

Klobuchar, Amy (MN)

Udall, Tom (NM)

Warner, Mark R. (VA)

Begich, Mark (AK)

 

REPUBLICANS

Snowe, Olympia J. (ME)

DeMint, Jim (SC)

Wicker, Roger F. (MS)

Isakson, Johnny (GA)

Blunt, Roy (MO)

Boozman, John (AR)

Toomey, Patrick J. (PA)

Rubio, Marco (FL)

Ayotte, Kelly (NH)

Heller, Dean (NV)

 

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

REPUBLICANS

Don Young (AK)

Howard Coble (NC)

John J. Duncan, Jr. (TN)

Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ)

Gary Miller (CA)

Timothy V. Johnson (IL)

Sam Graves (MO)

Bill Shuster (PA)

Shelley Moore Capito (WV)

Jean Schmidt (OH)

Candice Miller (MI)

Duncan Hunter (CA)

Andy Harris (MD)

Rick Crawford (AR)

Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA)

Frank Guinta (NH)

Randy Hultgren (IL)

Lou Barletta (PA)

Chip Cravaack (MN)

Blake Farenthold (TX)

Larry Bucshon (IN)

Billy Long (MO)

Bob Gibbs (OH)

Patrick Meehan (PA)

Richard Hanna (NY)

Jeff Landry (LA)

Steve Southerland (FL)

Jeff Denham (CA)

James Lankford (OK)

Reid Ribble (WI)

Chuck Fleischmann (TN)

 

DEMOCRATS

Peter A. DeFazio (OR)

Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)

Jerrold Nadler (NY)

Corrine Brown (FL)

Bob Filner (CA)

Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)

Elijah E. Cummings (MD)

Leonard Boswell (IA)

Tim Holden (PA)

Rick Larsen (WA)

Michael E. Capuano (MA)

Timothy H. Bishop (NY)

Michael H. Michaud (ME)

Russ Carnahan (MO)

Grace Napolitano (CA)

Daniel Lipinski (IL)

Mazie Hirono (HI)

Jason Altmire (PA)

Timothy J. Walz (MN)

Heath Shuler (NC)

Steve Cohen (TN)

Laura A. Richardson (CA)

Albio Sires (NJ)

Donna F. Edwards (MD

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