For the past few years, most major U.S. airlines have begun charging separately for a variety of services like checking bags that used to be included in the price of a ticket. While the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has taken some important steps to increase the transparency of these fees on airline websites, much more needs to be done.
Today, if you call your travel agency, use an online travel company, efficient comparison shopping among competing airline offers and the purchasing of a complete trip is not possible. You or your travel agent must go to multiple airline websites to search for service fees and pay for them separately. This maddening process exists because airlines refuse to provide the travel agency sales channel with fee information that enables side-by-side comparison-shopping and purchasing. As we know all too well, there is great profit in consumer confusion!
There is reason for hope though. TravelStore has joined forces with a broad coalition of travel industry and consumer groups in a White House-sponsored “WE the PEOPLE” petition-campaign. We are requesting that true air travel comparison-shopping be restored through an anticipated early 2013 DOT Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) so that consumers can see, compare and buy the complete air travel package in one place without having to search through a variety of airline websites. However, we do not know how strongly DOT will write the proposed rule.
Importantly, the NPRM will soon be transmitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget for its due diligence and guidance back to DOT. Having the White House more aware of the financial harm to consumers from hidden airline fees and having them encourage a robust DOT rulemaking would be very useful.
The coalition has until December 25, 2012 to secure 25,000 signatures. If we succeed, then the White House is committed to formally reviewing this request and providing a public response.
We strongly encourage you (and your colleagues and friends) to review the text and sign the petition.