U.S. House Should Reconsider Anti-Consumer Airline Legislation
Business Travel Coalition (BTC) today called on U.S. House Transportation Committee members to reconsider support for H.R. 4156, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014. 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. The legislation would harm consumers by reversing a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rule implemented in 2012 as a cure to misleading airline advertising.
In rejecting airlines’ 2012 court challenge to that DOT rule, that airlines now hope to use Congress to override, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rightly sided with DOT observing: “Based on common sense and over three decades of experience and complaints, DOT concluded that it was deceitful and misleading when the most prominent price listed by an airline is anything other than the total, final price of air travel.”
If H.R. 4156 had an ounce of consumer benefit, then Transportation Committee members would be shouting that from the balconies of the Capital, especially in an election year. However, most members of the Committee appear to be avoiding the press like the plague. Why? In addition to overwhelming consumer blow back and press criticism of H.R. 4156, members are now realizing that airlines astonishingly misled them by pushing their case for this legislation by telling one simple lie over and over again about the DOT full-fare advertising rule.
“Airlines falsely claimed, and continue to double-down in the press, that the DOT advertising rule forces them to hide government taxes and fees. The opposite, of course, is true. Airlines can 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 on ticket itineraries and further remind passengers of the taxes when printing out boarding passes. They simply choose not to,” added Mitchell.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a pro-consumer 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.’”
Support for DOT authority to police deceptive airline advertising practices is critically important. The more consumers trust a shopping and purchasing process the more likely it is that they will buy more products and services more often. Over the long term, providing consumer protections, such as DOT’s full-fare advertising rule, will increase competition, create market efficiencies, encourage innovation, expand markets, increase sales and satisfy customers. These are outcomes that benefit all stakeholders in any industry as well as society in general.
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.