Will new bill let airlines hide ticket prices?

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.

So far, the debate about the Transparent Airfares Act has been fairly predictable, with airline representatives and their supporters lining up to defend the bill and consumer advocates denouncing it. Sound bites in a moment.

But here’s one question that has gone unasked: Are passengers really clamoring for a “transparent” airfare? If so, where are they?

In 2011, the Transportation Department mandated that airlines quote a total price for airline tickets, including all government taxes and mandatory fees. Two airlines unsuccessfully sued the government, arguing that the full-fare advertising rule violated their right to free speech. The Supreme Court declined to accept the case, confirming a lower court’s ruling upholding the requirement.

Since then, I’ve received no complaints from air travelers about their inability to view the taxes and fees on their airline tickets. A representative for the Transportation Department, which collects complaints about airfares, also told me that it’s “unlikely” that anyone has asked it for more transparent prices. “Consumers have consistently confirmed to us that advertising of prices below the total cost of travel causes confusion,” DOT spokeswoman Caitlin Harvey told me.

Perhaps I was missing something, so I asked the representatives who sponsored the bill whether they could put me in touch with some constituents who wanted more “transparent” airfares. Among the bill’s sponsors were congressmen with distinguished records of protecting consumers, such as Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.).

“While the DOT had good intentions, the new rule effectively reduced transparency,” DeFazio said in a prepared statement. “Consumers haven’t been getting the whole picture of what an airline ticket pays for. The Transparent Airfares Act is a simple fix to give people better information.”

Justin Harclerode, a spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called my request “a little off-base.”

“How can customers complain if they’re unaware that something — part of the cost — is being hidden from them?” he asked.

Harclerode suggests that ticket prices are deceptive, because customers see only the total ticket cost, so they assume that it’s all attributable to the airline, when in reality 21 percent of the price is the result of government fees and taxes.

“Consumers should know what the total cost of a ticket is, but, just as with other products and services, it should also be clear to the purchaser how much they are paying as a base price and how much they are paying the government,” he told me. “Currently, that is not the case.”

The Transparent Airfares Act would allow airline ads to state the base airfare and then separately disclose any government-imposed taxes and fees and the total cost of travel. So an airline could advertise a flight for $237, the cost of the ticket alone, instead of the $300 you’ll end up paying after taxes. It wouldn’t have to reveal the total cost until you pay for the ticket.

I asked A4A, the U.S. airline industry trade organization, whether it could connect me with any passengers who were unhappy with their inability to see the taxes and fees included in a ticket price. Under the regulations, a carrier is free to describe the charges included within the total price, such as government taxes and fuel surcharges, as long as it shows the all-in fare at the beginning of the booking process.

“This isn’t about customer complaints,” A4A spokeswoman Jean Medina said. “It’s about transparency and truth in advertising by showing the actual fare and then the taxes the customer is paying. On its face, full-fare advertising sounds as though it is protecting the consumer, when in reality it is protecting the government, enabling spikes in taxes to be hidden and buried within the price of a ticket. We believe that customers should know where their travel dollars are going.”

In other words, consumers aren’t asking for transparency. But they would if they could.

Or would they? Again and again, in comments to the Transportation Department, fliers have stated their preference for knowing a total fare upfront, saying that they feel duped when shown a low airfare that they can’t actually buy. Before the full-fare rule went into effect, it wasn’t uncommon to find an attractive ticket price — say, $299 for a transatlantic flight — but once taxes, fuel surcharges and other fees were added, the total fare came to $899. That price was revealed only at the end of the booking process, frustrating passengers.

“This bill is really the Air Transportation Cost Concealment and Deception bill,” says Paul Hudson, president of Flyersrights.org, which advocates for air travelers. “By allowing the base price to be advertised instead of the all-in price, consumers will no longer be able to easily price shop for air transportation.”

Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, put it equally bluntly: “The airlines want to advertise deceptively low prices. We’re all for transparency, but this bill doesn’t provide it.”

And what about passengers? I spoke with dozens of them after the bill was introduced. When I outlined the airline industry’s arguments, many agreed at first that taxes and fees were concealed in the fare and that it didn’t seem fair. But when I explained the net impact on their next airfare purchase, as described by consumer advocates, they were virtually unanimous: The bill does the exact opposite of what it’s meant to do.

Kimberly Webb, a reader from San Antonio, says that she doesn’t mind a breakdown of fares, “but for the love of Pete, when I’m searching for the best fare, I want to know the whole price.” She doesn’t like getting to the end of a purchase only to find out that it will cost more once taxes and other surcharges are added in; she believes that is deceptive. “Just tell me the whole price,” she says.

If the Transparent Airfares Act becomes law, then passengers such as Webb might look back on the past two years as the golden age of airfare comparison shopping, when passengers knew how much their tickets would cost.

That assumes, of course, that this gets out of the House committee — and past the Senate.

The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 is ...

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Cindy Kaebisch

    To me, the airlines are like the Ticketmaster of fees. TM shows you the ticket price – in this case, $85 – and doesn’t show you until you are ready to buy that there are not only $13.50 in fees per ticket, but another $5.75 per order in fees. Somebody needs to investigate THIS monopoly as well, because in many cases, it is the only way to buy a ticket.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I have to admit that I was wrong. I was skeptical about mandating disclosure, as I though it was unnecessary. But I had failed to consider that airline ticket prices are subject to a myriad of taxes which makes it difficult, if not downright impossible, for a casual traveler to discern the final price. As such, I am happy for the mandatory disclosure.

    The airline industry is serving up Kool-Aid. Its position is rice paper thin. They are advocating a consumer protection position yet cannot show produce a consumer or advocacy group who feels that the current state of the law is unfriendly to consumers. Its a painfully, yet artfully defended, ploy to do an end-run around the current disclosure law to once again present artificially low prices to consumers.

  • LFH0

    There’s two separate, though related, issues at play here. First, there is the concern that the consumer has the ability to compare airfares fairly from one carrier to the other, and that the consumer knows how much he or she will be paying overall. That is, an issue relating to the competitiveness of carriers and the affordability of a potential journey. Second, there is the concerns that the electorate has the ability to ascertain how much of a fare goes to the carrier for the provision of the transportation service and how much goes to the government as tax. That is, a political issue relating to the means through which the government enriches itself.

    Both issues are important, though for very different reasons. The first issue is directly related to the purchase of air transportation, and the second issue is directly related to the election of members of Congress. But since it is air carriers that are taking out the advertisements, and are powering the websites, I think the more important of the two is the first issue (i.e., allowing consumers to be able to comparison shop and know how much they must pay for transportation) and that is what should probably be the “base” fare to be advertised. That being said, transparency in government is important, and consumers should be shown the breakout of the fare at some reasonable point in the shopping process, i.e., the amount going to the carrier and the amount going to the government. For the most part, Ms. Webb is on-point here.

    The bill, as it proposes to amend 49 U.S.C. § 41712, at subsection (d)(2)(B), is inadequate because it would permit only the base fare (without taxes) be advertised directly, and the taxes to “be disclosed through a link or pop up.” I think that if a fare without taxes is advertised, the taxes applicable to that fare ought to be shown on the same webpage, preferably with the sum of the untaxed fare plus tax also shown on the same webpage.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I concur that there are two issues here. One relates to the consumer ability to make rational choices regarding the purchase, i.e. basic disclosure law, and the second is the transparent government. Both are important.

    With regards to the rational choice, I think of other similar consumer purchase, the most similar being gas. The price advertised is always inclusive of tax. Advertising the price before taxes would be deceptive.

    With regards to transparent government, once again we can look to gas sales for guidance. The taxes are clearly disclosed on the pump. However, the allocation of taxes is not germane to comparison shopping. That’s why the airline logic is a sham.

  • sirwired

    What a joke. A stupid one.

    The airlines can disclose fees, taxes, etc. as much as they like! As long as they display the total cost first, they can then, on the next screen, tell customers what portion of that is fees and taxes, and use 500-pt bold red blinking underlined text to do so.

  • $16635417

    Since this issue came up a couple of years ago I have been looking for the taxes on the pumps and, in my experience, they are FAR from clearly disclosed. The vast majority of the stickers are either missing, faded or there is evidence of removal.

    EDIT: I just bought gas at two different gas stations today. Neither one had a sticker visible showing the taxes. Not only that, but the first one had the button for the highest priced gas on the left, with prices declining as you moved right. The station I usually buy from has the lowest price on the left and prices increase as you move to the right. I almost bought the most expensive gas!

  • TonyA_says

    Have you seen the BS that happened in the EU. The made a full fare rule like ours but the corrupt politicians left a loophole using the term UNAVOIDABLE COSTS.

    Regulation 1008/2008/EC on air services in the Community requires that the published price for the service shall include the fare and all applicable taxes, charges, surcharges and fees which are unavoidable and foreseeable at the time of publication. In addition, details must be given of the different components of the price (fares, taxes, airport charges and other costs). It is hoped that the recent Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU will increase transparency for passengers, especially when buying their transport tickets on-line. The Directive explicitly bans pre-ticked boxes, internet cost traps and any additional charges which passengers were not duly informed about in advance. Additionally, it prohibits traders from charging fees for the use of means of payment (e.g. credit cards) that exceed the cost borne by the trader for the use of these means.  This Directive becomes law throughout the EU in December 2013.

    So now you have online agencies screwing folks with different credit card additional charges. All they have to do is publish the lowest fare with a unique payment type such as in house card or some deal with VISA Electron and then jack up additional fees with ordinary Visa and Mastercard.
    You cannot win against big business since politicians and companies are in bed together.

  • TonyA_says

    Search ticket prices in Orbitz. Notice you will not see a breakdown of taxes, fees and their own booking fee. All you get is the total charges.
    Expedia in my opinion is the only OTA giving you a breakdown (sub total) of what you are paying for. They also disclose the booking class while Orbitz does not.
    Personally, I want to compare total prices (all in) but I still want to know the breakdown.

  • backprop

    What airlines do that? I only seem to fly a view, and have not seen anything but the total price displayed for years.

  • Klaus Schuller

    In Canada, airlines used to advertise these pre-tax prices and then put the taxes & fees (sometimes as much or more than the fare) in tiny print. In 2012 the rules were changed, now requiring them to show the all-in fare, as the Ministry of Transportation ruled the previous practice deceptive. Strange that the USA is making the reverse argument now. For some reason tour/vacation packagers can still advertise the old way, but must disclose the taxes and fees in the same ad.

  • Extramail

    Agreed. I want to know the full price when I am comparing prices and then I’d be curious as to how much of that fare is going to the government. And, I want to be able to do it without having to follow the asterisk trail. The same could be said for hotel prices and rental car prices. I always leave a hotel pissed when I didn’t know that parking is going to be $32 a night, etc.

  • Thomas Ralph

    I might just possibly be OK with this IF AND ONLY IF only government taxes could be omitted. Fuel surcharges and airport fees? Part of the actual cost of the service.

  • jim6555

    It’s only been a little over two years since the US DOT began requiring that airlines show the full fare in their ads. This ended the deceptive practice of advertising teaser fares which looked great until the customer tried to book travel and found out that there were many hidden charges like taxes, security fees, airport user fees, fuel surcharges, etc. I like the new system better and hope that the airlines are unsuccessful in their attempt to take us back to a state of confusion. By the way, since the new format was put into place, airline profits have soared. Why are they complaining?

  • TonyA_says

    Bear in mind that for INTERNATIONAL tickets, the largest cost component will usually be a hidden tax called Carrier Imposed Fees with codes YQ/YR and they masquerade as TAX/FEES :)

  • Poley King

    Technically no such thing as a fuel surcharge in the US. The US carriers changed the name to International surcharge to get around rules that they need to prove the fuel surcharge was tied to the actual price of fuel vs some made up number

  • Kairho

    I don’t really care whether taxes and fees are or are not shown in pricing. I do care that we, as a society, be consistent.

    Sometimes airfare show the total, sometimes only the base “plus taxes & fees.” A taxi fare shows the total. Other purchases show the total.

    But walk into a store and only the base, the additional sales taxes are not shown and only show up on the final register tally. Same thing for buying a car (sales tax, tag costs, etc.) or even a new set of tires (sales taxes and “disposal” fees!). Even buying a house is quotes as so many dollars “+++”

    Go with the total. Go with base plus stuff. Just be consistent everywhere.

  • TonyA_says

    I think we need to be more precise about this.
    There are 2 ways carriers can add fuel surcharges to the price of a ticket.
    1.) They can add a fuel surcharge (Q) that becomes part of the fare. Since it becomes part of the fare, it is taxable and interline-able (meaning any carrier who chooses to sell this fare must collect it). Since this fuel charge is part of the fare (included in the rules of the fare) then it is decided by the airline that OWNS the fare.
    2.) They can add a fuel surcharge (YQ or YR) that acts like a TAX (not part of the fare). These kinds of surcharges are NOT part of the fare. Since these surcharges are not part of the fare, they are decided upon by the MARKETING airline (the one that codes the flight number). Collection of these YQ/YR surcharges are made by the VALIDATING airline (the one that issues the ticket) but only if they CONCUR to collect it (since the surcharge was decided by the marketing airline of the flight and they are not necessarily the one selling the ticket).

    You will not see a YQ/YR fuel surcharge for US Domestic flights.
    I believe the reason is the US charges a 7.5% tax on base fares so no airline is bold enough to screw with Uncle Sam (by moving part of the fare as tax/fees)
    But US Airlines consistently exploit YQ/YR for international routes (since these are not taxed in the US).
    Real Smart travelers have found ways to hack YQ/YR fees. Good for them!
    That is one way to reduce cost of international travel. Hacking, can you imagine that we have to go that far to lower price ? :)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That was my initial position. As long as we are consistent, e.g. we normally show item without including the taxes. Usually not a problem because for most items the tax is either zero or a consistent percentage which is relatively easy to calculate.

    My problem is that some taxes are based on a percentage of the total price, others are based upon the number of units sold, (e.g.. gallons of gas) and others are a hybrid.

    When taxes are based on percentage of the cost that’s easy because we’re accustomed to that fro most consumer purchases. Taxes based on units sold is much less common, but exists. When taxes are a combination of both,good luck figuring out the total costs from just knowing the base price.

  • omgstfualready

    Banking has been doing this (by regulation) for a long time. It was required to allow mortgage and loan shoppers to do apples to apples. Why is this hard to do here? Do what we have now, total inclusive of taxes and fees AND a breakdown of the fees and taxes. No need to build a better mousetrap.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Unbelievable. I well remember the days when it would take me many hours to find a flight, because I had to go through multiple pages and clicks before I could see the final price of the ticket. I would often have to open numerous browser windows and step through the process on numerous sites to get to the point right before purchase in order to be able to comparison shop. It was my biggest travel frustration, and I was so relieved when the law changed and the final price had to be shown up front. It exponentially reduced the amount of time I had to spend researching fares.

    And now they are trying to put us back to that horrible time? And trying to claim it’s a BENEFIT to us?? You gotta be kidding me!

    What a total lie! What complete bullcrap!

    Hear this, airlines: I don’t care how much the taxes are! I just want to know how much the ticket costs, and I don’t want to have to scroll through multiple screens to get the final price. I would consider this a benefit ONLY if the total price is displayed first, with a breakdown of taxes and fees available with more clicks. But to make us have to dig for the final price is irrefutably deceptive and deceitful.

    This is clearly a scammy end run around a law that helped consumers, and forced airlines to honestly disclose prices. Passage of this new law will do nothing to help consumers, and everything to allow airlines to once again use deceptive selling practices.

    Well played, airlines. Well played.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I think you are misreading the proposed law. If I am reading this right, the law currently states that they must provide an all-in price up front. The new law allows them to disclose only the fare first, and the taxes/fees later, under the guise of “mandatory disclosure”. This essentially allows the airlines to go back to their earlier practice of making us dig for the price, pretending this is a benefit to us by supposedly giving us more information.

    Poppycock. It puts us back to the dark ages, when we passengers were allowed to be lured in with falsely low advertised fares, and then hit with big unexpected fees later.

    This so-called mandatory disclosure would only be a benefit if they still were required to quote or advertise an all-in price up front, and disclose the portion of the price that goes to taxes & fees later. But that’s not what it says.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And keep in mind that it’s not just taxes…it’s these nebulous “fees” as well, which can vary wildly between routes and airlines.

  • VoR61

    If it’s “mandatory” I don’t care to see it – means nothing. But, if it’s at the airline’s discretion (think “shipping and handling”), I would like to see it as it can be an indicator of excess.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I completely disagree.

    You walk into a store to buy a gallon of milk, you know that what you will pay at checkout will be the listed price plus some consistent percentage of tax. The percentage of that tax will not vary regardless of what you are buying, or which store you are in.

    Try that with flights. I challenge you to look at some base fares and, without clicking through to some additional information, tell me how much that ticket is going to cost you.

    Good luck with that.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Ummmm, Isn’t that what I said :-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    You’re missing the biggest point. This new bill would once again allow airlines to advertise and quote base fares, making us have to go dig to see the extras. Regardless of what the extras are (taxes, fees, fuel surcharges, airport use taxes, shipping and handling,TSA scope n grope fees, whatever), they would once again be able to bury that in the fine print.

    And they are calling it “disclosure”! That’s the irony.

  • LeeAnneClark

    No, because you are saying you are happy for mandatory disclosure, when that is going to result in going back to airlines being able to deceive us. It’s easy to get confused when discussing this new bill. It uses a particularly nefarious doublespeak, using the word “transparency” in the name when in fact it really results in the opposite: less transparency.

  • VoR61

    According to the actual proposed “bill”:

    “It shall not be an unfair or deceptive practice under subsection (a) for a covered entity to state in an advertisement or solicitation for passenger air transportation the base airfare for the air transportation if the covered entity clearly and separately discloses (A) the government imposed taxes and fees associated with the air transportation; and (B) the total cost of the air transportation.”

    Clearly it states that they can ONLY separate the “government imposed taxes and fees”, not their own add-on fees. So I stand by what I said – that I don’t care about mandatory fees as they are universal to carriers servicing a given location.

    EDITED: However, I would want all carriers to advertise the costs in the same manner (i.e., include/don’t include the fees).

  • Kairho

    Not quite that simple (though I wish it were). Sales taxes can vary by jurisdiction and the percentage I pay here can be significantly different than what I pay over there. Doesn’t apply to that gallon of milk but not when buying high ticket items.

    Second, that already varying tax rate will vary by type of item being purchased. That well hidden 8% sales tax on a book can vary from zero for the milk to maybe 20% or more for a hotel room.

    Plus some jurisdictions add on other fees and taxes such as tourist taxes, development district taxes, school tax, etc. It’s a mess.

    Still my point is consistency. This argument pushes that conclusion towards total price.

  • BMG4ME

    I can’t believe they would actually consider going back to the old, deceitful way. Airline fares are a refreshing taste of truth in pricing, so rare in the USA. The only other place is at gas stations and in supermarkets where food is tax free. I don’t care what the taxes are since I have to pay them anyway, it’s just another component of the price. It’s as bad as British airlines separating out the fuel cost and then charging frequent flier award users for the fuel surcharge.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I think you are misinterpreting the bill. It clearly states that airlines can advertise the base fare as long as they disclose the taxes and final price separately. It does not say anything about them having to include other imposed fees in their advertised price. In fact it clearly states that it would NOT be an unfair or deceptive practice to advertise only the base fair! It says it right there in the first sentence.

    Furthermore, if you consider it acceptable for them to advertise prices excluding taxes…do you really think you will always know what those taxes will be, in your head, same as you would when buying milk? Really? I sure don’t!

  • bodega3

    Where do you see airfare currently advertised? I don’t see them advised anymore in our local paper. If you see an airfare advertised for United from SFO to MIA, how do they take into account the various connection options for that fare to allow for the various fees?

  • bodega3

    It is indeed a mess. We live in what is termed the unicorporated area of our county. That places our sales tax at a lower amount than in any city. If we make a purchase, to be delivered, we pay the lower sales tax. If we pick it up within a city limits, we pay that city’s tax. Merchants screw this up all the time.

  • bodega3

    And that is why advertising a ticket price has historically been done by fare, which doesn’t include taxes, surcharges or fee.

  • bodega3

    You have to book the routing to get the fees and surcharges before you can get the total ticket price.

  • LFH0

    As a consumer of air transportation, I think you’re right about knowing the bottom line so that you can compare between carriers and know whether or not you can even afford the total fare. But there’s also a political aspect. You should know how much the government is adding to the fare in the form of taxes, so that you can make intelligent decisions at the ballot box. Without that transparency, our political leaders would not be held accountable.

    I think one of the differences with air transportation compared to other goods and services is that it sold with excise taxes imposed by the federal government, and there’s no difference in the amount paid for the transportation anywhere in the United States. On the other hand, sales and compensating use taxes on most goods and services are imposed by state and local governments, and advertisements cannot reasonably show a total price if the goods and services are sold in different taxing jurisdictions. (But consider that in some countries, where there is a national sales tax or VAT, the price advertised is tax-inclusive.)

  • LFH0

    As I was writing I was thinking of that type of issue. There are taxes that are imposed on both purchasers and businesses (in many cases utilities are subject to gross receipts taxes, the cost of which typically gets passed through the purchaser in the form of a higher purchase price). From a transparency perspective, it would be good information to have that type of tax also disclosed. But I would be careful to distinguish taxes actually paid by a carrier (which might be passed through in the form of a “tax recovery fee”) from a fee imposed by a carrier to pay for its cost of providing the service (such a “fuel surcharge”). Because of all these nuances, I elected not to try to untangle this web, as it involved a lot of details that muddle the general concept of tax transparency.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Which is deceptive and makes it extremely difficult for a passenger to comparison shop. When a business is allowed to advertise a product for $100, but the price you actually pay could be double that…that’s deceptive, plain and simple. When you have to click through multiple levels on a website before you actually know how much something is going to cost you, that’s unreasonable.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Purchasing retail items at stores, even if you have differing tax rates from one county or state to the next…you still have some known range of what the end price will be. The variances in retail sales taxes are small. Across the US, retail sales tax rates range from 7.0% to 9.5%.

    Hotel rooms, however, are a perfect example to make my case: hotel rooms should be required to state an all-in price up front. Taxes for hotel rooms can be WAY larger than retail sales, and can vary widely.

    Taxes and fees on airline tickets are completely impossible for the standard passenger to know up front.

    I do actually agree with you that there should be consistency…I think the all-in price should ALWAYS be quoted, for everything! But I’m okay with not quoting all-in pricing for retail items because we all know generally what the sales tax is going to be…which is not the case for hotels, airline tickets, rental cars, etc.

    To make us passengers have to hunt down all-in pricing is unfair, unreasonable, a burden, and deceptive.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well I haven’t bought a print newspaper in longer than I can remember. So the only advertising I see these days is online…and it certainly exists.

    But worse than “advertisements”, in my mind, are “quoted prices”. When you are searching for a plane ticket, you should be able to see the full, all-in price on the very first quote you get. Airlines should not be allowed to quote you a base fare, and then hit you with additional costs, whether it’s taxes or fees or whatever, only after you’ve had to click through to find them.

    Do I want to know what portion of my fare is base, and what portions are taxes, fees etc.? Sure, I want that information. But I want to see the all-in price FIRST. To do otherwise puts an unreasonable burden on us, and leads to deceptive tactics wherein low base fares are quoted, giving the impression the ticket is far more affordable than it really is once you go to buy it.

    I don’t want to have to go dig for the all-in fare. I want to see it up front.

  • Kairho

    So we agree on my main point: consistency. Everything else were just examples.

    (BTW, some retail sales taxes in my state are 6.0%.)

  • bodega3

    You need to book the flights as the routing can affect the fees and such. That is the part that is missing in everything I read about what is expected of the carriers. If you connect in ORD or DEN or IAD or LAX, can possibly mean a different final ticket price.

  • bodega3

    Not really deceptive. What they use to do, which was deceptive was advertise $129 from SFO to LHR in bold print. Then you had to read in the small print that this was based on one way, for flights departing on Tuesday only and is for roundtrip only, no one ways.
    CVS advertises prices in their ads. Same ad for LA as for HNL. But the final price I will pay will depend on what city it is purchased in as taxes vary. They don’t advertise the final price.

    I disagree that it is difficult for passengers. I have been selling tickets for too long to agree with that.

  • Naoma Foreman

    Ticketmaster is a SHAM. I think the Mafia runs it. Seriously, their prices are so high and then you get the SERVICE fees. I do not use them at all!!!

  • TonyA_says

    I don’t think so …

    d) Full fare advertising

    (1) In general

    It shall not be an unfair or deceptive practice under subsection (a) for a covered entity to state in an advertisement or solicitation for passenger air transportation the base airfare for the air transportation if the covered entity clearly and separately discloses:
    (A) the government-imposed taxes and fees associated with the air transportation; and
    (B) the total cost of the air transportation

    (3) Definitions

    In this subsection, the following definitions apply:

    (A) Base airfare

    The term “base airfare” means the cost of passenger air transportation, excluding government-imposed taxes and fees.

    The airline still has to completely disclose Fares including carrier imposed fees since only government-imposed taxes and fees can be separated.

    Customers will still be able to compare prices WITHOUT gov’t taxes and fees.
    The real problem a few years ago was that airlines were hiding their own carrier-imposed fees so we could not make decent comparisons.

  • Trudi

    I can’t vote yes or no on this issue. Passengers generally don’t want to know the breakdown of their ticket; it’s too confusing and they want to get to Disney World! For those passenger that really want a breakdown, they can probably find it somewhere.

    Anytime I see government ‘transparency’ though, I see lobbyists and lawyers hiding behind pillars and grinning dollar signs. Someone will have to monitor this process – so they’ll be paid. Someone will have to determine the breakdown – so they’ll be paid. Someone will have to make sure this is all on the up and up – so they’ll be paid. So, who is really going to be get the benefit of this transparency?

    In an earlier post, LeeAnn (I think) used a gallon of milk as an example. You pick up a gallon of milk and you know what it will cost. However, there may be added tax in some states, and it might be higher in some counties, and there might be a surcharge or deposit for the container in other places and so on. Still, you know in general how much the milk will cost, right?

    Now, suppose the milk’s price was broken down to show the cost of the subsidies to the farmers who produce the milk, the cost of the processing of the milk, the cost of the transporting of the milk, and the retail costs of the milk. That makes the whole purchase honest and transparent, right?

    Do we have the option of refusing to pay for any step of the process in our purchase? Can we control any step of these charges? Does the cost of transparency result in any advantage to a consumer?

    Probably not.


    I think the current law is good–let travelers know the full price up front. BUT I also want to be treated as an intelligent traveler and have the fare broken down for me before purchase. Give me a screen with the total cost and then follow it up with the breakdown–fare, carrier imposed fees such as fuel surcharges (which should be listed as part of the fare), taxes–both foreign and domestic. Then I can decide whether or not to make the purchase.
    And in addition, I cannot wait for the howling to start over changes to Delta’s frequent flyer program. Status, this year, depends on both miles flown as well as money spent. But money spent is only on the fare and DL imposed fees (will be this way next year as well.) All taxes are excluded from the spending total. I can see flyers now complaining that they did not know how few miles they are getting because they were not given the fare breakdown. This will give Chris nightmares.

  • bodega3

    Our GDS give it to use that way, so it can be done if it isn’t.

  • MarkKelling

    I’ve got a bad feeling about this …

    In and environment where customers choose one vendor over another for as little as one dollar difference in price, allowing the airlines to advertise “base fare” and then filling in the extras later can only be bad for everyone.

  • bodega3

    Just some information. We only get base fares in the GDS. Taxes, surcharges, fees are all added after we pick the flights and book them to get the total price. How can the arilines do this any differently when without connections showing, you can’t know the final price.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Then you completely misunderstand what I said. The mandatory disclosure that I am referring to is the current law, i.e. the mandatory disclosure of the total upfront cost. Re-read it carefully, especially the second paragraph where I call the current proposal “Kool Aid”, “a ploy to do an end-run”, and “present artificially low prices”. Clearly not terms one would use to defense the current proposal.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well okay then…mea culpa! Yes, I misunderstood what you were referring to when you said “mandatory disclosure”. I’m happy to see that you and I are on the same page here. But I think the confusion is understandable…the Orwellian doublespeak is over-the-top! I had to read the article twice just to grasp what this bill is actually going to do, and to see just how nefarious and underhanded its language is.

    Thanks for clarifying, and sorry for misunderstanding.

    This whole issue drives me batty. I REALLY do not want to go back to the days of having to spend hours digging down through multiple windows just to find the full price of airline tickets.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • MarkKelling

    Yet airlines today on their web pages have no problems displaying the full and final price for any itinerary you choose.

  • bodega3

    My only experience with that was just the other day. I was on ual.com and they showed the base and not the total until you booked the segments.

  • bodega3

    Only after you pick the flights.

  • whatexit

    I find this a bit confusing. When I search airfares on the various discount websites, invariably, I see the base fare and a breakdown of the taxes and fees BEFORE the necessary click to purchase.. Based on that, I see no reason for this legislation.
    Once again we have an example of overbearing intrusive government.
    Hey DC…If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  • whatexit

    I never use Ticketmaster. The company’s fees are unreasonable.
    For example, the ‘convenience fee on a $25 ticket can be $8, That’s absurd.
    For ticket purchases where I wish to attend an event out of town, I use stub hub or a ticket exchange site.