Ticket-buyers beware: Airlines now have a license to get sneaky about baggage fees and a host of extra charges.
It’s no secret that baggage fees are part and parcel of airplane tickets these days. But because of a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), airlines and ticketing agencies are no longer required to disclose those fees when travelers book.
The move went down without fanfare (or outrage) last week.
According to an article on The Hill, the DOT quietly announced it is withdrawing the Obama-era rule requiring airlines to disclose fee data. Department officials also announced plans to end an effort to force airlines to disclose how much revenue they make from charging other ancillary fees. (Some airlines and online ticket agencies already track this information.)
Currently, airlines must disclose information about optional service fees on their websites and specifically are required to disclose how much money they make from baggage fees.
Critics say this information is hard for laypeople to find until they are relatively far along in the ticket-purchasing process. Adding insult to injury, airlines do not have to report how much they charge for add-on services such as carry-on bags, seat selection, and priority boarding.
The move drew sharp criticism from a phalanx of travelers and at least one legislator: Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who has pressed for a Passenger Bill of Rights and has advocated on behalf of travelers against airlines for years.
“Pulling the plug on rules that would ensure airlines are open and honest about bag fees is about as anti-consumer as it gets,” Blumenthal Tweeted on December 7. “[This] reckless reversal is a gift for the airlines’ bottom line—and a slap in the face for travelers who deserve clarity when buying a ticket.”
Charles Leocha, president of Travelers United, a consumer advocacy group, agreed. “It is a dereliction of duty for the DOT to stop its review of unfair and deceptive pricing of ancillary fees, which make it impossible for consumers to comparison shop for the best costs of airfare,” Leocha told the Washington Post.