Written by David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on Monday proposed requiring airlines to disclose fees for baggage, change of tickets and family seats the first time a flight ticket is shown.
These are the latest in a series of rules the Biden administration has proposed to strengthen consumer protections in airlines.
“My administration is taking tough action against airlines,” President Joe Biden said at a competition board meeting on Monday.
“You should know the full cost of your ticket correctly when comparing shopping to start from where you are – what airline you will be flying with so that you can choose the ticket that is actually the best deal for you.”
The White House indicated in 2021 that major airlines have $700 million in cancellation and change fee revenue.
Airlines for America, a major trade group for airlines, said airlines “which are fierce competition – really offer transparency to consumers from first look to flight landing”.
The USDOT said current requirements mean consumers often receive information about fees after purchasing tickets when they get confirmation, “which is insufficient disclosure.”
Last month, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Reuters that airline rules need to be “updated”. Buttigieg lobbied airlines to improve customer service after tens of thousands of flight cancellations and delays this summer and published airline responses to the disrupted flights they controlled on a government dashboard published in August.
The administration also threatened new rules if airlines did not guarantee that young children could be seated with their parents.
At the White House Competition Board meeting, Biden called for federal action to address other fee issues including “unnecessary hidden fees” such as overdrafts, credit card late payments or cell phone termination fees.
In July 2021, the USDA proposed rules requiring airlines to refund significantly late baggage fees and refunds for services like in-flight Wi-Fi that doesn’t work.
Under current US rules, travelers are entitled to a refund if bags are lost, but not upon delay.
The USDOT has faced criticism from some for not doing more to hold the airlines accountable.
In August, 36 state attorneys general criticized airlines and the USDOT and called for new powers to investigate consumer complaints about airlines.
“Americans are justifiably frustrated that the federal government agencies tasked with overseeing airline consumer protection are unable or unwilling to hold the airline industry accountable and quickly investigate complaints,” the state agencies said.