Who Is Involved With This Campaign?
Several travel industry and consumer groups collaborated in conceptualizing and organizing this initiative. The campaign model is a decidedly decentralized one in that any organization is free to copy any and all of this website's information and tools to their own webpages to use with their various constituencies.
Is The Campaign Against Airline Fees?
No. We are not opposed to airline ancillary fees per se as they can offer consumers choice and airlines sustainable, profitable revenue streams, which is important. We are deeply concerned, however, that since 2008 U.S. consumers have been stripped of the ability to efficiently comparison shop multiple airlines’ offerings of the “all-in” price of travel (base fares and fees) and to purchase the complete air travel product in whatever sales channels airlines choose to offer their base fares.
Are Not Airline Fees Required To Be Disclosed By The U.S. DOT?
DOT took an important but limited step in requiring airlines to disclose checked baggage fees on their websites. However, some 50 percent of consumers use local travel agencies and national online travel companies while 95 percent of corporate travelers use travel management companies and online booking tools, and they need to purchase more that just checked baggage services. Airlines have refused to provide these agencies with checked baggage or any other ancillary fee information in a useful, saleable format.
Exactly How Are Consumers Being Harmed?
In order to get an understanding of the “all-in” price (base fares and fees) of air travel alternatives, consumers must visit numerous airline websites to search for fees and pay separately for services. First, this laborious process costs consumers their time. Second, they could simply miss a less expensive offer as they must manually search for and combine air travel components. Third, because true comparison-shopping has been taken away, both ancillary fees and base fares are not being fully disciplined by the marketplace resulting in higher prices-paid for consumers.
Why Are Airlines Holding Consumers Hostage By Refusing To Provide Fee Information?
There are several reasons.
(1) Major carriers find advantage in displaying a fare that matches low-cost carriers’ “all-in” fare offerings in travel agency displays.
(2) Hidden fees represent a confusing and deceptive marketing practice; there is profit in consumer confusion.
(3) Consumers are being driven to airline.com where airlines are shielded from side-by-side comparison-shopping.
(4) The first airline to provide all its fee information would suffer competitively as it would immediately look 20% to 40% higher than its competitors in travel agency displays.
(5) Some airlines are withholding fee information to increase negotiating leverage with air travel aggregators and travel agencies.
Why Is This Government’s Problem To Solve?
When Congress deregulated the airline industry, consumer protections were consolidated at DOT leaving travelers with no legal recourse under state consumer-protection laws or Federal Trade Commission authority. Misleading and deceptive marketing practices need not be intentional; they can result from the sum total of airlines’ policies and practices. Consumers are being financially harmed, and DOT is the only agency in the country with the legal authority, means and obligation to safeguard consumers’ interests. DOT must act.
What Do You Want The Administration To Do?
Ideally, airlines would solve this problem themselves and avoid government intervention as was necessary when airlines disregarded for 10 years consumers’ concerns over extended tarmac delays. Airlines for the past 5 years have ignored their most valuable corporate customers’ demands for ancillary fee information; a further sign of a failing marketplace. DOT must require airlines, via a rulemaking, to provide ancillary fee information to sales channels where they offer base fares so consumers can see, compare and buy the complete air travel product.