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Southwest Comes Out as a Consumer Champion as It Refuses to Join Lawsuit By Major Airlines Against Biden Administration’s War On ‘Hidden Fees’

Southwest Comes Out as a Consumer Champion as It Refuses to Join Lawsuit By Major Airlines Against Biden Administration’s War On ‘Hidden Fees’

airplanes parked on a tarmac

Southwest Airlines has emerged as a consumer champion after it emerged that the Dallas-based airline has declined to join a lawsuit brought by some of the biggest airlines in the United States against a new rule by the Biden administration that will require airlines to disclose all hidden fees upfront.

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, and United Airlines have joined forces with Washington DC-based lobby group Airlines For America in the lawsuit that was filed in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals late last week.

The group of six airlines are suing the Department of Transportation in a bid to prevent a new rule that will require them to disclose all fees upfront when consumers search for a flight online.

First announced in 2022, the rule will require airlines to factor in a number of ancillary fees in the base fare that is presented to consumers when they search for a flight online, either on the airline’s own website or aggregate comparison websites like Expedia.

Fees that will need to be disclosed upfront include checked baggage costs, as well as fees associated with changing or cancelling a ticket.

The rule isn’t designed to stop airlines from charging additional fees for optional extras, but the Biden administration wants to prevent consumers from being lured into buying a ticket made up of an artificially low base fare, which suddenly increases in cost when “surprise fees” are added at a later stage of the booking process.

Some airlines have, however, taken issue with the rule because they argue it will confuse consumers.

The lawsuit will claim that the DOT is overstepping its authority by regulating “private business operations in a thriving marketplace,” describing the new rule as “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise contrary to law.”

Last month, the DOT claimed that consumers were collectively overpaying by $500 million per year in what the Biden administration describes as “junk fees”.

“Airlines should compete with one another to secure passengers’ business—not to see who can charge the most in surprise fees,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg when the final rule was published.

Although the DOT has yet to publicly comment on the lawsuit, the agency says the rule is intended to clear up consumer confusion and help the public understand the true cost of air travel.

The DOT also says the rule will ban “bait-and-switch tactics some airlines use to disguise the true cost of discounted flights”.

The first draft of the rule would also have made airlines disclose fees for families to sit together, but this requirement was dropped from the final rule because the DOT is working on another rule to ban airlines from charging family seating fees altogether.

Despite the unpopularity of the junk fee rule amongst some airlines, Southwest Airlines has come out in support of the rule and is understood to have declined to become a party to the lawsuit.

Southwest Airlines is, however, still feeling the repercussions of its 2022 Christmas operational meltdown after the DOT took ‘historic’ enforcement action against the carrier. As part of its punishment, Southwest must now pay passengers a $75 voucher for any controllable cancellation or delay that causes passengers to reach their destination three or more hours after their scheduled arrival time.

The airline will be required to submit an annual report to the DOT for the next three years detailing how many vouchers it has issued due to controllable delays.

View Comments (9)
  • The lawsuit is awful. It will lengthen times on the phone with every agent who will have to legally read a disclosure each and every time, it will make comparative searches near impossible when you have any type of elite status, and will do more harm than good.

    • I believe it’s best move to stop hidden fees and they should do same with car rental companies. It’s time to help people from getting ripped off.

  • This is so needful. It should be done for hotels, airlines, buses, cruises, rental cars, and every other thing that you buy at an advertised price. Southwest airlines already does it! When you shop at, you see the final price which includes taxes, fees, and everything else. It may shopping online much easier and honest! I am so tired of shopping for a hotel room, for example, for less than $100 and then find out the total is $150 because of a resort fee, taxes, parking fee, pool fee etc etc etc it’s out of control. It’s called Truth and fairness!

  • These airlines should be ashamed. They SHOULD be transparent with their customers. Good for Southwest for standing up for their consumers. This lawsuit is a sham and greed driven!

  • How will the lawsuit lengthen phone times? All it does is require all fees to be disclosed during the initial booking. Customer service calls won’t be affected.

  • Southwest is sucking up to a government which neither cares about it, nor the citizens it pretends to protect. Southwest is stuck in the afterglow of Winter Storm Elliott. The new DOT rules are short sighted, not thought out, and will harm both air travelers and airlines.

    For instance, you’ll be purchasing a brand new ticket at a higher price since the airline is now forced to automatically refund your ticket if they can’t find a way to rebook you.

  • Undisclosed fees, taxes etc add significantly to the price of a ticket on some airlines. This info is readily available if one knows where to look.

    • Why should we be looking for it as if we’re looking up the meaning of a word in the dictionary. It’s called robbing you without a weapon. What a stupid remark you made there “T”.

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