Consumer watchdog calls Biden admin airline transparency push ‘good first step’
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The Biden administration says it wants more transparency from airlines when it comes to booking flights. A newly proposed rule would force airlines to disclose upfront all the fees you see when you eventually pay for your flight.
“I think this is going to lead to real dollars and cents savings for customers,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg says when Americans go to book their flights they see an initial price, but things like baggage costs, cancellation fees, and seat change fees are often hidden. This rule demands airlines make those fees appear when you search for tickets.
“It’s how capitalism is supposed to work. You have clear information about the product you’re buying, the price you’re paying, you choose between competitors,” said Buttigieg.
The administration says this could create more competition in the industry and eventually lower flight costs
Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, says this is a good first step but does not go far enough in getting better treatment for airline customers.
“We need broader protections for consumers who are being shuffled around and abused by the industry in so many other ways,” said Balber.
Balber wants more delay and cancellation protections, including cash refunds. She also wants to cut down on tarmac wait times. Balber thinks the small number of airlines helps them control the market and allows for bad treatment of customers. And even when forced to disclose fees, she is skeptical it will change much.
“I don’t think requiring transparency of cost changes the cost,” said Balber.
Airlines for America, who lobbies on behalf of major American airlines, rejected our interview request. In a statement a spokesperson said, “A4A member passenger airlines – which are fierce competitors—already offer transparency to consumers from first search to touchdown. U.S. airlines are committed to providing the highest quality of service, which includes clarity regarding prices, fees and ticket terms. A4A passenger carriers provide details regarding the breakdown of airfares on their websites, providing consumers clarity regarding the total cost of a ticket. This includes transparency regarding taxes and government fees on airline tickets, which account for more than 20 percent of many domestic one-stop, roundtrip tickets.”
The administration’s rule proposal is currently in the middle of a public comment period. People can make comments on the federal register until October 26.
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