A House of Cards Premised on A Big Lie
House Members Should Insist on Proper Deliberation of This Highly Controversial Legislation
Business Travel Coalition (BTC) today has learned that H.R. 4156, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, is on the short list in the U.S. House of Representatives for a Suspension Calendar vote prior to the August recess. Suspension of the rules is a procedure used to quickly pass non-controversial bills in the House. H.R. 4156 arguably represents one of the most controversial aviation bills in a generation. (See http://btc.travel.)
The bill was passed out of Committee on April 9, 2014 without any hearings, debate or opportunity for consumer or travel industry stakeholders (other than airlines) to inform Congress of their views and the flaws in this bill. This is not the harmonious naming of a Post Office - the type of bill the Suspension Calendar is used for - but rather, contentious legislation that would harm consumers by reversing a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rule implemented in 2012 as a cure to misleading airline advertising. House Members should reject this Suspension Calendar scheme and insist on proper deliberation of this highly controversial legislation.
This week, in a scene right out of NetFlix’s House of Cards, airlines tripled down on their Big Lie and the manipulation of Congress that H.R. 4156 is premised upon. From the trade group Airlines For America, “...consumers deserve to clearly know just how much they are paying in federally imposed taxes and fees every time they purchase a ticket.” (See http://btcnews.co/W0pxMe.)
Likewise, from American Airlines’ in-flight magazine, American Way, the carrier’s CEO asserts, “I can assure you that at American Airlines, you will never be asked to finalize a purchase without knowing the full price of the ticket, including all federal taxes and fees. But with this legislation, you will be better informed to know exactly what you are paying for in advance...” (See http://btcnews.co/1rXoM3d.)
THE BIG LIE; THE TRUTH
“Airlines falsely claimed to Congress, and continue to double and triple down in the press, that the DOT advertising rule forces them to hide government taxes and fees. The opposite is true. Airlines are free to list these amounts in an advertisement or solicitation so long as they are less prominently displayed than the total airfare, stated BTC founder Kevin Mitchell. “Moreover, airlines can list all taxes and fees on ticket itineraries and further remind passengers of these costs when printing out boarding passes. They simply choose not to,” added Mitchell.
Some find Frank Underwood’s lies and manipulation in House of Cards highly entertaining. But when it comes to reality in Congress, and consumer protections, at least one Member of Congress finds airlines’ duplicity deeply disturbing, and has the courage to stand up to them. U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a House Transportation Committee member who voted (perhaps alone) against H.R. 4156 succinctly told The Associated Press in a May 8 article: “The bill is ‘a gift to the airlines...’ ‘What you're going to see is $200 for the airfare, and then you're going to be shocked when it turns out to really be $250,’ he said. ‘It's misleading to the consumer. It's just dishonest.’”
At http://btc.travel find relevant foundational documents, analyses and industry statements representing all views on H.R. 4156 as well as press editorials and stories.