How should airline fees be displayed?

By | April 22nd, 2011

So the federal government weighed in on airline fees earlier this week, and will soon require optional fees like baggage, meals and in-flight Wi-Fi, to be “prominently” disclosed on a carrier’s website.

But that may not be enough.

The Transportation Department has promised a second administrative rulemaking later this year to deal with the question of how, exactly, airlines should be required to show their fees.

Here’s the new requirement from Wednesday’s final rulemaking:

(d) If a U.S. or foreign air carrier has a website marketed to U.S. consumers where it advertises or sells air transportation, the carrier must prominently disclose on its website information on fees for all optional services that are available to a passenger purchasing air transportation.


Such disclosure must be clear, with a conspicuous link from the carrier’s homepage directly to a page or a place on a page where all such optional services and related fees are disclosed.

“Optional services” are defined as any service the airline provides, for a fee, beyond passenger air transportation. Such fees include, but are not limited to, charges for checked or carry-on baggage, advance seat selection, in-flight beverages, snacks and meals, pillows and blankets and seat upgrades.

Most airlines already disclose their fees in a similar way, so the change isn’t exactly revolutionary. And you’ll still need a calculator to figure out the total cost of your airline ticket.

Has the DOT done enough, or does it need to strengthen this rule?



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