Attorney General Shapiro to U.S. Transportation Secretary: Don’t Withdraw Rule Requiring Airlines to Disclose Baggage Fees Upfront

December 19, 2017 | Topic: Rights

AG Shapiro Leads Coalition of 17 AGs Calling on Trump Administration to Implement Rule that Would Require Airlines to Disclose Fees to Consumers Throughout the Booking

HARRISBURG – Today, Attorney General Josh Shapiro led a coalition of 17 Attorneys General asking the Trump administration to implement a rule requiring airlines and third-party booking companies to disclose baggage fees and other charges upfront, making it easier for passengers to know the true cost of buying their airline tickets and make informed choices.

The Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees rule, proposed in January 2017, would have made it far easier for consumers to understand the full cost of their plane tickets. When a customer books a ticket, the baseline price is typically all that is shown. Carry-on baggage fees, checked baggage fees, seat fees, and more are not disclosed until booking is nearly complete – or even after tickets have been purchased. The rule would have required airlines to post all the fees up front at the beginning of the booking process – instead of surprising consumers at the end.

The coalition, led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, asked U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a letter today to not withdraw the rule. U.S. airlines are expected to earn $57 billion from these fees this year – and $7 billion from baggage fees alone.

“We all know how stressful travel can be, particularly during the holidays,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Consumers are frustrated when the ticket price they think they found suddenly increases based on hidden fees. The airline industry’s lack of transparency is troubling.  Their fees should be posted up front, so travelers can know what they’re buying and find the best deal.”

In addition to Pennsylvania, the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii and the District of Columbia signed today’s letter.

The Transportation Department announced earlier this month it was withdrawing the rule, which was proposed during the final days of the Obama administration.  The department said in a notice posted online that the rule would have been “of limited public benefit.”

According to a 2016 study cited by the Attorneys General in their letter to Secretary Chao, travelers paid an average of $100 in fees per round-trip on Spirit airlines, $97 on Frontier and $86.92 on United. “We regularly hear reports from consumers in our states who are confused and frustrated by these fees, which significantly alter the total cost of travel,” the Attorneys General wrote.

The Attorneys General letter details the many different fees that airlines are increasingly charging consumers for basic services which were previously considered standard services covered by the basic ticket price. In addition to baggage fees, some airlines charge for printing boarding passes at the airport, allowing passengers to select seats and even to provide assistance to children traveling by themselves.

“It is critical that consumers are able to quickly and easily determine and understand the full costs of their travel to make informed choices,” the letter states. The Attorneys General wrote that while they are committed to working collaboratively with the Transportation Department to protect consumers and ensure the country’s aviation industry is able to grow, “this decision by your Department works against those goals, making it harder for Americans to be informed consumers when they travel.”

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