DOT Proposes Airlines Disclose More Information to Consumers

Proposed consumer protections for air travelers would include disclosure of fees for basic services.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed some new consumer protections for air travelers. The proposal, building on consumer protections that were issued in December 2009 and April 2011, would require the disclosure of fees for certain airline services, such as checked baggage. It also would require more air carriers to report their performance data to DOT and codify the department's definition of a ticket agent "to ensure that companies that offer flight search tools and receive a form of compensation are adhering to the Department's consumer protection requirements."

More specifically, the airlines and ticket agents would be required to disclose fees for additional services, including: first checked bag, second checked back, one carry-on item, and advance seat assignment. According to DOT, these fees are currently difficult to determine when searching for airfares, which could be misleading to many consumers. In addition, the rule would also expand the number of carriers that need to report information to the DOT about on-time performance, oversold flights, and mishandled baggage rates. Any carrier that accounts for at least 0.5 percent of domestic scheduled passenger revenue (as opposed to the current standard of 1 percent) would be required to report these data.

The proposed rule would also require large travel agents to adopt minimum customer service standards, require carrier and ticket agents to disclose any code-share agreements on initial itinerary displays online, and prohibit unfair and deceptive practices, such as preferentially ranking flights of certain carriers above others without disclosing the bias.

"Knowledge is power, and our latest proposal helps ensure consumers have clear and accurate information when choosing among air transportation options," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "The proposal we're offering today will strengthen the consumer protections we have previously enacted and raise the bar for airlines and ticket agents when it comes to treating travelers fairly."

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