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[USA] Senate committee wants transparency for airline fees

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[USA] Senate committee wants transparency for airline fees

Unread post by bimjim » Wed Aug 12, 2015

http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News ... line-fees/

[USA] Senate committee wants more transparency for airline fees
Jerry Limone
August 11, 2015

Ancillary fees associated with the cost of air travel — from baggage fees to penalties for cancellations or changes — are not being adequately disclosed to consumers by the airline industry, according to a report by Democrats in the Department of Commerce’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The report, titled "The Unfriendly Skies: Consumer Confusion Over Airline Fees," calls for better, and earlier, fee disclosure during booking. It recommends that lawmakers consider requiring booking websites to display a fee chart when a route is selected and agents to inform customers about fees during phone bookings.

It also recommends that baggage fees have a “clear connection” between the charge and the airlines’ incurred costs. The report said there appeared to be no cost justification for charging customers more for a second checked bag than the first and for charging fees for carry-on bags. Among U.S. airlines, Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant charge for carry-ons.

Airlines should take into account when a reservation is altered when charging change fees, the report said. Of the carriers the committee examined that assess change fees, only Alaska Airlines and JetBlue have adopted this practice. For example, if a change is made 60 or more days prior to departure, Alaska doesn’t charge anything. It charges a $125 fee for changes made less than 60 days before departure.

Change fees should also be less than the original fare, according to the report. The U.S. network airlines charge $200 for changes to domestic flights and more for international flights.

Preferred seating charges also were highlighted, as the report found sometimes airline websites “gave the impression that when no ‘free’ seats were available at the time of ticket purchase, an additional fee would be required to secure a seat.”

“Consumers should understand that payment of a seating fee is not required if it is an airline’s policy to assign seats from available inventory at check-in,” the report said.

Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the committee’s ranking minority member, said he will push Congress to act on recommended changes when work begins on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA Modernization & Reform Act, the current FAA reauthorization legislation enacted in 2012, expires in October.

“The traveling public is being nickel-and-dimed to death,” said Nelson. “What’s worse is that many flyers don’t learn about the actual cost of their travel until it’s too late.”

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