July 24 - Analysis of Press Reports on H.R. 4156

 

What do the nation’s newspapers say about the most controversial aviation bill in a generation?

A review of editorials and press reports below concerning the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 (H.R. 4156) reveals the following:

1- H.R. 4156 is highly controversial. This is not the harmonious naming of a federal building - the type of bill the suspension calendar is normally used for, but rather, H.R. 4156 arguably represents one of the most controversial aviation bills in a generation.

2- Airlines sold Congress on H.R. 4156 based on the BIG LIE that the U.S. DOT is forcing airlines to hide federal taxes and fees.

3- H.R. 4156 will not increase transparency in shopping for air travel, but rather, will obfuscate the air travel purchasing process for consumers.

PRESS COVERAGE OF H.R. 4156

USA Today

“Passengers are understandably incensed. A Change.org petition to stop the bill has gathered thousands of signatures [127,769], and consumer groups, in a rare show of unity, have demanded that Congress discard this wrongheaded legislation.”

The Hill

“Now after steamrollering the bill through Committee, airlines seek to subvert the Suspension Calendar procedure. There is not one consumer group or business travel organization that supports this legislation; most have publicly criticized both the bill and the rushed process.”

Chicago Tribune

“Transparent Airfares Act of 2014: A proposal based on lies.”

TIME

“How a Proposed ‘Transparent’ Law Would Blatantly Mislead Consumers.”

New York Times (editorial)

“This push to mislead consumers is particularly galling since recent mergers, like that of American Airlines and US Airways, have made the industry less competitive. This bill will only hurt travelers.”

The Buffalo News (editorial)

“The proposed Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 should more properly be called the Murky Airfares Act.”

Bloomberg (editorial)

“The industry’s opposition is predictable and part of a pattern. In March, for example, airlines lined up behind the cynically named “Airfare Transparency Act of 2014,” a House bill that would overturn a 2012 Department of Transportation rule requiring them to advertise total fares -- base fares, plus taxes.”

USA Today (editorial)

“The airline industry lost its legal battle to reverse the rule in a trial court and on appeal. The Supreme Court refused to consider the case. But in Congress, it's having better luck, thanks no doubt to $42 million in campaign contributions since 1990.”

Bloomberg (editorial)

“Unbelievably, the airlines’ bill was passed on a voice vote by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on April 9. At the time, expectations were high that the bill was on a fast track to become law. But since then a broad coalition of travel agents and passenger rights groups have come out in opposition to the bill.”

Spokenman-Review (editorial)

“The deceptively titled Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 would void U.S. Department of Transportation rules implemented in 2009 and 2012 that require full fare disclosure.”

USA Today (editorial)

“You wouldn't get on a flight without knowing its destination. But the airline industry seems to think you want to shop for tickets without knowing how much they will cost.”

New York Times (editorial)

“A group of bipartisan lawmakers in the House of Representatives has been pushing a bill that would make it easier for airlines to deceive travelers about the true cost of flying.”

Associated Press

“Airlines tried and failed to block a federal rule making them tell passengers up front the full cost of airfare, including government taxes and fees. So they're trying another route, asking Congress to do what the Obama administration and the courts refused to do: roll back the law.”

New York Times

“Critics say that would allow airlines to highlight the base fare, relegating fees and taxes to the fine print.”

Consumerist

“Consumer groups, however, are vehemently opposed to the bill, pointing out that if the Act becomes law, consumers would once again lose their ability easily to shop for airfares in any meaningful way.”

Politico

“The bill, which would roll back a 2012 rule forcing airlines to include government fees and taxes in the ticket price they advertise, is “contentious legislation that would harm consumers,” the BTC said. Other travel groups have also come out in opposition, while Airlines for America is in strong support of the bill.”

Dallas Morning News

“Under this rule, airlines would be allowed to advertise their base fares and government taxes and fees separately. The airlines love this bill, so that’s an indication it’s not consumer-friendly.”

Market Watch

“Even more disconcerting: An earlier federal rule requiring airlines to include taxes and related government fees when posting fares is being challenged by the industry.”

Washington Post

“Critics have watched in amazement as this deceptively named bill has taxied toward the runway, apparently unstoppable.”

The Travel Insider

“The Airlines (Again) Dupe a Willing Congress.”

Jacksonville BJ

“And, remember, Airlines for America is behind the Transparent Airfares Act, which every objective observer agrees would make prices more opaque and hide the real cost of flying from travelers.”

Post-Dispatch

“We shouldn’t be surprised that the airlines want to make it harder to compare prices, but we should be concerned that some members of Congress can say with a straight face that they’re promoting transparency when, in fact, they’re promoting the opposite.”

Huffington Post

“The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 would give airlines a federal license to advertise a low "base" fare and add taxes and fees later in the booking process, before you buy a ticket.”

Washington Post

“This bill is a disaster, says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. It’s being railroaded through Congress, consumers be damned. ”

Travel Pulse

“The Business Travel Coalition, backed by the American Society of Travel Agents and more than 80 other travel-related groups and businesses, today delivered a letter to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, asking that House Resolution 4156 – the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 – be removed from the list of bills to be considered before Congress goes into recess in August.”

Consumer Traveler

“Today’s DOT full airfare rule means that when a consumer sees the price of flying from Boston to Miami — or to Timbuktu — in an advertisement, they can purchase the ticket for the advertised price.”

M&C

“The fact is H.R. 4156 is not just about undermining a U.S. DOT consumer protection rule. That bill would appear to be merely a first step in a new, audacious and longer-term airline strategy to game-the-system and choke off competition for their own benefit.”

Travel Market Report

“Introduced by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), the bill has sparked heated opposition from both travel industry and consumer groups. They say it will allow enable airlines to hide the true cost of air travel.”

Travel Agent

“Major consumer groups have sent a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, urging them to reject the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014.”

Financial News

“The president of the American Society of Travel Agents, Zane Kerby, said the bill ‘would allow airlines to deceive travelers about the actual cost of a flight.’”

Jaunted

“The bill, deceptively titled the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, was proposed by a House committee and, on the surface, says it wants to make taxes clearer on tickets. But what it actually does is allow airlines to advertise their base fares separately from taxes and fees.”

Travel Pulse

“Normally, the Suspension Calendar is used to suspend conventional rules of procedure so that Congress might more quickly pass non-controversial bills. The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 is hardly non-controversial.”

Consumer Reports

“It’s time to ground the ironically titled Transparent  Airfares  Act of 2014. The bill stipulates that mandatory taxes and fees levied by federal, state, and local governments, as well as airport authorities, wouldn’t have to be disclosed until the end of the booking process.”

Consumer Traveler

“Consumers and the free market are facing a full frontal attack from the airlines. Their minions have swarmed through the House of Representatives casting an untruth that members both Republican and Democrat are swallowing hook, line and sinker.”

Travel Agent

"If H.R. 4156 had an ounce of consumer benefit, House Transportation Committee members, who voted for the bill, would be shouting that from the balconies of the Capital, especially in an election year.”

Star-Herald

“‘We are receiving letters from Iowans concerned about this issue and will continue to monitor both the Senate and House versions of the bill to determine the best course of action for consumers purchasing airline tickets,’ said Kate Cyrul Frischmann, communications director for Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.”

Condé Nast Traveler

“But William McGee, Consumers Union’s aviation consultant and author of the book Attention All Passengers, counters that ‘there is nothing stopping the airlines from breaking out taxes and fees’ now, which they can do by pointing this out in their ads.”

Travel Market Report

“ASTA CEO Zane Kerby said the average ASTA member agent should be gravely concerned about the Transparent Airfares Act.”

ABC News

“But I don't think this new legislation is the answer: This relaxation of the rules could be misleading and make apples-to-apples ticket price comparisons nearly impossible.”

SFGate

“Well, the airlines could be on the verge of undoing that rule with the deceptively named ‘Transparent Airfares Act of 2014’ that their powerful lobbyists recently introduced in the House of Representatives.” 

Skift

“The new bill would allow airlines to advertise or list airfares at any price with little relationship to what the final cost would be.”

The Hill

“Make no mistake about it: this legislation that Calio’s Airlines for America is peddling on The Hill has nothing to do with providing more “transparency” to consumers about the airfares, taxes and fees, but is clearly focused on deceiving, misleading and enticing consumers with unrealistically low airfares.”

Travel Market Report

“The BTC claims the airline industry hopes to use Congress to reduce price transparency, harm consumers and undermine the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation.”

Travel Pulse

“ASTA and many others speak out against Transparent Airfares Act of 2014.”

The News Gazette

“Legislation cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, is being criticized by consumer and travel advocacy groups who claim it would allow airlines to hide bottom-line ticket prices.”

Travel Agent

“Consumer and travel industry groups joined forces to express their "unequivocal" opposition to the Senate Commerce Committee adopting a companion bill to the House bill, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 (H.R. 4156).”

Chicago Tribune

“The Travel Technology Association, a trade group representing online travel agents like Chicago-based Orbitz Worldwide, does not support the bill. "Travel Tech is concerned that the Transparent Airfares Act could harm consumers by reducing, rather than promoting, all-in price transparency," said Steve Shur, president of the group.”

eTurboNews

“In what would surely make George Orwell claw his casket, airlines are actually pitching H.R. 4156 to the Senate as an “economic stimulus bill” that would boost travel and tourism. If such a bill were going to stimulate anything it would be airlines’ coffers.”

DC Velocity

“How do you spell transparent? Note to air travelers: The proposed Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 is anything but.”

ConsumerReports

“The ironically titled Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 would make airfares more opaque, not more transparent.”

Smarter Travel

“Transparency in airfare. That sounds like something everyone can get behind, right?

Advertisement. But the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 (H.R. 4156), currently pending in the House, has ignited a firestorm of controversy about the nature and benefits of pricing transparency.”

The Breeze

“‘This whole thing about the airlines wanting to only pass this law so the consumers know how much in taxes they are paying is horse hockey,’” said Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based passengers’ rights organization.

Travel Weekly

“ASTA has begun a grassroots campaign against the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 (H.R.4156), which ASTA says will allow airlines to deceive travelers about the cost of a flight.”

Associations Now

“The airline industry applauded the new bill, introduced by Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) last month.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, is siding with the airline industry in what could be a nasty fight with the people who buy their tickets.”

Travel Agent

“’The press is beginning to report on this stunning effort by airlines to undercut their regulator and the indecent haste that has accompanied this bill, with no hearings at which other stakeholders would have had an opportunity to inform Congress of their views and the flaws in this bill - a true railroad job,’” says Kevin Mitchell, BTC chairman.

Bloomberg

“Without hearings or debate, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved a bill April 9 that would let carriers resume their former practice of most prominently featuring base fares, rather than the total price.”

U.S. PIRG blog

“After losing a court case seeking to overturn new pro-consumer, pro-competition airfare price disclosure rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the airline lobby has flown into Congress seeking relief from having to tell the truth about airfares.”

Bloomberg BNA

“The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill that would change the way air carriers can advertise ticket prices but some industry groups warn the legislation could actually make the purchasing process more confusing for passengers.”

FrugalTravelGuy

“Even the most cynical among us have got to cringe due to the outrageous hypocrisy of the Act’s title. “Transparent”? This? Wouldn’t the name Obscure Airfares Act convey the meaning of this monstrosity more accurately?

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