Consumers Union Strongly Disagrees with DOT’s Move to Scuttle Airline Passenger Protection Rules

Thursday, December 7, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, today criticized the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) withdrawal of key rulemakings that would better protect airline passengers by providing greater transparency of airfares and fees. In announcing the decision, DOT stated that such efforts are “of limited public benefit” and would impose significant costs on the airline industry — an industry which continues to see billion dollar profits each year as consumers face increased fees.
“We strongly disagree that these proposed rules are ‘of limited public benefit’ or would cause airlines to incur significant costs,” said William J. McGee, Aviation Adviser for Consumer Reports. “In fact, enhanced pricing transparency benefits both consumers and competition within the airline industry.”
In recent years the influx of new and higher “ancillary” fees for services such as checking baggage and making changes to reservations has confused travelers and made the true cost of flying opaque. Shoppers are being denied the basic ability to compare costs as they are shopping, as some airlines withhold critical pricing on fares and fees, both from their own websites and from third-party ticket sellers such as online travel agency sites.
For years now, Consumers Union has supported full pricing transparency for air travelers, most recently in comments filed with the DOT in January and in testimony before the House Transportation Committee in April.
“Our position has been consistent for years,” said McGee. “We have called — and will continue to call — for complete airfare transparency, including for all mandatory taxes and surcharges, and for all possible ancillary fees, equally available in all booking channels, both online and offline, whether offered through the airlines themselves or through third parties. We provided the Department of Transportation a number of recommendations to help achieve this goal, and had no indication, until today, that this important pro-consumer effort might be abandoned. We urge the DOT to reconsider these measures and urge Congress to take action to better protect consumers.”