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U.S. Airlines Might Not Have to Disclose Taxes and Fees in Advertisements in Rollback of Obama-Era Consumer Protections

U.S. Airlines Might Not Have to Disclose Taxes and Fees in Advertisements in Rollback of Obama-Era Consumer Protections

U.S. airlines might soon be able to show consumers advertisements with just the base fare and not the all-in-fare, including taxes, fees, and other charges, should a new bipartisan bill make it into law.

The amendment is hidden in the depths of the latest Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization act which secures funding for the FAA and also contains all sorts of other legal updates impacting the aviation industry.

As flagged by David Koenig, one of those legal updates hiding in the 773-page proposal is a provision that would allow airlines to advertise the lowest base fare, so long as they separately disclose the cost of government-mandated fees and the total cost later on in the booking process.

For example, airlines could entice consumers using online ads with a low base fare as long as they provide a link or popup that provides fees, taxes and the total cost, which is “easily accessible and viewable” by the consumer.

The proposal would effectively roll back an Obama-era consumer protection law that forced airlines to advertise fares inclusive of taxes and other fees.

The House Bill is still a work in progress and even if passed as currently proposed, the Department of Transportation could effectively put the breaks on making elements of the bill actionable.

For example, the last FAA reauthorization act was signed into law in October 2018, which included a provision to give flight attendants extra rest between flights. Despite a stipulation that the provision should be implemented within 30 days, the provision languished on the desk of the DOT until it was finally implemented last year.

The proposal seemingly flies in the face of the efforts by the Biden administration to tighten consumer protections for air travelers, with the White House promising to crack down on ‘unfair’ ancillary fees like forcing families to pay to sit together.

The DOT has released a dashboard that shows what airlines provide fee-free seating options for families with young children, and the department is currently working on a proposal to force airlines to pay compensation in the event of severe delays that result from avoidable circumstances.

The airline industry is vehemently opposed to the proposal and claims a compensation law would lead to a rise in airfares while doing little to improve delays or cancellations.

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