Transparent Airfares Act passed by US Congress

A bill to exclude taxes and fees from airline ads goes to the Senate

The US Congress passed the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 ,  a bill that would change government regulations about how airlines advertise fares so that they could advertise the base fare and separately list the government imposed taxes and fees.

Transparent Airfares Act passed by US Congress
Transparent Airfares Act means airlines can effectively hide taxes and fees again

Since 2012, airlines have to most prominently display the full price of a flight—including taxes and fees—in advertisements.

Under the new legislation, the base price could be the figure most prominently shown in ads and ticket-selling websites as long as taxes and fees are displayed separately, such as in footnotes or pop-up ads.

This could mean marketing that could fool consumers into thinking their flights will cost significantly less than they’ll actually end up paying.

20% of the overall ticket price comes from federal taxes – $61 dollars of a typical $300 flight. Under the new law, airlines could ignore that portion of the fare and advertise the same flight at $239. But passengers could not pay $239, they have to pay $300. Confused?

Airlines and their workers’ unions support the move saying that letting them advertise their unmodified prices would show consumers how much the government is adding to their bill. They can of course show that figure right now.

Consumer groups like consumertraveler oppose the legislation.

Prior to implementation of the rule, airlines would often “hide” the cost of taxes and fees in small print in advertising or down at the bottom of Web pages.

That gave the impression you could fly for a lot less than the actual total cost.

The bill, Transparent Airfares Act (H.R. 4156), still needs to pass the Senate before it becomes law and that could be difficult.

New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has what he calls the Real Transparency in Airfares Act. The Senator’s legislation upholds the existing “full-fare advertising” rule that requires all ticket sellers to disclose the full airfare cost upfront, including taxes. Plus, it would double the maximum penalty for airline industry violators.

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