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ASTAnews SPECIAL REPORT: GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS ASTA members seek true airfare transparency


Eben Peck, ASTA’s vice president, government affairs, offers an update on the ongoing implications of the Transparent Airfares Act


THE ADVOCACY HEADLINE for the first half of 2014 has without question been the fight over legislation moving through Congress that will roll back consumer protections on airfare transparency and make comparison shopping for air travel more difficult. Te bill in question, the so-called Transparent


Airfares Act of 2014 (H.R. 4156), would actually make airfares less transparent. It has to do with the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) full-fare advertising rule that’s been in effect since January 2012. Under that rule, advertised airfares must state most prominently the full and final price to be paid by the consumer, including all government-imposed taxes and fees. Charges included within the total price,


including taxes and fees, can be listed separately as long as the total price is displayed more prominently than the individual components. Airlines are free to add anti-tax commentary in their advertising if they wish, as long as the full


10 | ASTAnetwork | summer 2014


and final price is most prominent. In July 2012, the full-fare advertising rule was affirmed by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, and the Supreme Court denied further review. Te Transparent Airfares Act would repeal


this rule, allowing government taxes and fees to be buried in long footnotes or through ‘a link or pop-up’ in an online transaction. It was pushed through a House committee without debate in early April, and at the time of press is pending before the full House of Representatives. At best, the Transparent Airfares Act will


undermine efficient comparison shopping by consumers and agents acting on their behalf. At worst, it will result in travelers being duped into premature carrier selection decisions and higher


prices. Te bottom line is that the Transparent Airfares Act represents a giant step backward in terms of true airfare transparency. While ASTA shares many aviation stakeholders’


concerns about the significant tax burden on air travel, that tax burden isn’t at issue here. What is at issue is a key consumer protection principle — that consumers should know the full cost of air travel before committing to a carrier’s price offer. Or, as a recent editorial in the New York Times put it, the current DOT rule prohibits airlines from ‘teas[ing] shoppers with a low base price, only to shock them later with a higher total cost. Tis bill will only hurt travelers’. Tere are other reasons of concern. For more


At best, the Transparent Airfares Act represents a giant step backward in terms of true airfare transparency


than two years, ASTA and our members have spent considerable time and money training staff and reworking business processes to comply with the rule, efforts that would be wasted if the full- fare rule were overturned. Te Transparent Airfares Act appears to have


lost some of the momentum it had in early 2014, but ASTA will remain watchful as it could be attached to a broader aviation authorization bill Congress must pass in 2015. asta.org/advocacy


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