How new legislation could make it harder to tell how much your airline tickets cost
Before a 2011 full-fare advertising rule forbade it, cheap flight tickets displayed initial base ticket fares online without including the mandatory taxes and fees. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, introduced last week, puts that rule in jeopardy. The bill funds the Federal Aviation Administration, but is also used for other purposes, such as revising aviation rules and consumer laws.
If Congress passes the act in its current form, it will give airlines clearance to quote an initial, low ticket price and then add taxes and fees before you pay. Proponents of the legislation say the act will "enhance" the air-travel experience for passengers. But experts, consumer advocates and many passengers consider rescinding the full-fare advertising rule as a license for airlines to use bait-and-switch tactics. This is the third time in five years that the airline industry and its surrogates in Congress have tried to jettison the fullfare advertising rule, formerly known as the Transparent Airfares Act. Airline representatives say having governmental permission to quote a low but unbookable ticket price boosts ticket sales and helps the industry. They also claim it highlights the high taxes passengers pay for their tickets.
The proposed law "is to ensure that consumers know how much they are paying is for the fare itself, and how much they are paying in taxes to the government," says Justin Harclerode, a spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
However, the current full-fare rule doesn't prevent airlines from breaking out taxes and fees below an all-inclusive price; it prevents them from dangling misleading prices in front of consumers.
As it did the last two times it tried to overturn the full-fare rule, Congress is plowing ahead despite public opposition.
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