AIRFARE

Please lie to us!

Do American consumers want to be deceived?

Do they like being lied to?

Those are the provocative questions raised by a recent debate about eliminating restaurant tips. It’s a discussion that rages on, particularly in the travel industry, where consumers are lied to without shame or legal repercussions every day.
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How airlines plan to have their way with fare disclosure

The U.S. House of Representatives’ suspension calendar is an unlikely ground zero for a midsummer battle over airline ticket advertising. But then, almost nothing about the oddly named Transparent Airfares Act, a bill championed by the domestic airline industry, has followed a likely trajectory.
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Will new bill let airlines hide ticket prices?

Dabari/Shutterstock
Dabari/Shutterstock
At best, the proposed Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, a bipartisan bill introduced this month in Congress, would open a window into the many taxes and mandatory fees attached to your airline ticket — charges that the airline industry believes you should know about.

At worst, the proposed law would give airlines a license to quote an artificially low ticket price, undoing years of regulatory efforts to require the display of a full fare. And if the bill passes, critics fear that an airline could quote you an initial base ticket price, minus any taxes and government fees, leaving you with the mistaken impression that your total airfare is far cheaper than it is.
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Are “custom” airfares good – or evil?

Studio Go/Shutterstock
Studio Go/Shutterstock
One way or another, the way you buy an airline ticket is about to change.

Behind the scenes, the propellerheads who create your fares are working on a smarter way to sell tickets. The airline industry is developing technology standards that could serve up a special fare intended only for you, based on how often you fly, where you live, your gender, age or marital status. But online travel agencies and consumer advocates are skeptical of customization.

Well, this is one time the airline industry almost got it right.
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My cruise ship broke down and left me high and dry

Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com
Douglas Kauffman had the misfortune of being booked on the Celebrity Millennium. You may recall the propulsion problems that caused a string of cancellations late this summer.

Well, one of them was Kauffman’s.

Cruise lines like Celebrity have a customer-service protocol that they follow in the event of a cancellation. While these standards address almost every vacation, there is no one-size-fits-all fix. Someone inevitably feels they’ve been short-changed, and that’s why Kauffman contacted me.
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Time to get real about real-time airfares

Little Miss/Shutterstock
Little Miss/Shutterstock
Sue Marcus was looking for a flight from Washington to Tulsa.

Instead, she found trouble.

Every time the American Airlines Web site asked her to select a return flight, it came back with an error message saying that the fare she’d selected was “no longer available.” She phoned the airline to finish the reservation. “A customer service agent told me that she couldn’t use the same Web system that the public sees, though she found a fare that was $50 higher than the flight I’d originally chosen,” says Marcus, a retired government worker from Fairfax, Va.
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How much is that cheap flight really costing you?

The Scan is a synopsis of news you can’t miss. Get it delivered to your “in” box by signing up now. It’s free.

What we’re reading

• How much is that cheap flight really costing you? (Daily Finance)

Courts will treat Asiana passengers differently (Yahoo! News)

Restaurants rethink menus to woo baby boomers (NBC News)

Avis Budget acquires Payless Car Rental for $50 million (AutoNews)

Well-known hazards likely factors in Asiana crash (Airwise)
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Are you too desperate for an airfare deal?

d3images/Shutterstock
d3images/Shutterstock
What would you do for a cheap airfare?

If you said “anything” then you’re probably going to love flying in the future. It’s a place that will be filled with steals and deals, and for a lucky few who take their time to study the system, you’ll be able to travel for next to nothing.

The rest of us? Not so much.
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3 surprises lurking in your airfare — bet you don’t know what they are

Joseph Hanus/Shutterstock
Joseph Hanus/Shutterstock

Your airline ticket isn’t what it seems to be.

I’m reminded of that whenever I hear from readers like Heidi Fox. Her husband tried to switch his United Airlines ticket from Chicago to Orlando to an earlier flight on the same day, and an airline representative assured him he’d only have to pay a $75 change fee.

But what the rep apparently didn’t say is that Fox’s husband would have to shell out a $744 fare difference, too.

“It was only after he received the emailed receipt that he was made aware of the $744 cost differential,” she says.
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Bill aims to scuttle new airfare pricing rule

Enjoy the government’s new airfare rule. It might not last.

On Jan. 26, the Transportation Department began requiring airlines and ticket agents to quote fares that include all mandatory taxes and fees. Since 1988, they’d been allowed to advertise fares that didn’t include government-imposed taxes and fees.
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Stop obsessing over airfares, and buy now

Should I wait for a fare sale or buy my airline ticket now?

That’s the question I’m most frequently asked as a consumer advocate. And it’s most often asked now, just as readers are starting to think about their summer vacations.

“How far out would you advise purchasing tickets to London from Baltimore-Washington?” wonders Anna Fansler.

“Should we book soon, or can we wait for possibly cheaper deals that might come through?” asks Laura Schwingel.

I won’t keep you in suspense, ladies: Book your tickets soon.
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