The government has proposed rules regarding air travel that could change the way fares are advertised. One of these rules could make it harder to figure out the full cost of your flight, while the other two could make it easier.
The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, proposed by a U.S. House committee, seeks to make the taxes clearer on tickets. Under this rule, airlines would be allowed to advertise their base fares and government taxes and fees separately. The airlines love this bill, so that’s an indication it’s not consumer-friendly.
This act aims to get rid of the Full Fare Advertising Rule, which went into effect in 2012. That rule requires airlines to show all mandatory federal, state and local government taxes and fees in their advertised fares, and it took the airlines almost two years to implement.
Why Congress wants us to see these taxes separately is beyond me because we can’t do anything about them. You’ve got a 7.5 percent ticket tax, airport fees, landing fees and more to pay for airport improvements, air traffic control, TSA, customs and the like.
The mandatory fees vary by destination, and two airports in the same area can have different taxes and fees.
For example, I found a round-trip fare from Dallas to Hartford, Conn., for $424. The base fare was $374, but taxes and fees were $28.05 for the 7.5 percent transportation tax, $5 for the 911 fee, $9 for the passenger facility charge and $8 for the flight segment tax. The total taxes and fees on that trip were $50.
On international tickets, taxes and fees add up to hundreds of dollars.
You have the base airfare and at least 10 categories of taxes and fees. You could see a $400 base fare to Europe, but when you add taxes and fees, including a fuel surcharge of $516 to 90 percent of Europe and landing fees of up to $200, you could actually pay $1,200.
The fuel surcharge, which is added by the airlines and not the government, is listed as a “YQ” or “YR” fee, and I’m sure most people would not know what the codes mean.
Out of Dallas, a round-trip airfare to Amsterdam would show as $483 under the proposal. But add $516 for the fuel surcharge, plus 10 other taxes and fees of $122, to the base fare, and you get a total of $1,121. I think most people would rather go to a website and see the total ticket price immediately, instead of right before the purchase.
Before 2012, I was blamed for misinformation more times than I can count because consumers didn’t understand that mandatory taxes and fees were not included in the airlines’ advertised fares. If this new rule passes, it will be a mess, and it will be misleading and unfair to the public.
On a more consumer-friendly note, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., wants to keep the Full Fare Advertising Rule in place, so airline passengers know the full cost of their tickets upfront. He has introduced legislation in the Senate that will keep the rule requiring disclosure of the mandatory taxes and fees, plus he wants to double the penalty on airlines that violate the rule.
Also, the Department of Transportation has proposed a rule that would require airlines to disclose fees for checked bags, carry-on bags and advance seat assignments when selling tickets. The DOT wants to make sure consumers know the total cost to fly by making the cost clear for these items.
Bags and seat assignments used to be included in the price of the ticket, but now most airlines charge for checked baggage, many airlines are charging for advance seat assignments, and a few charge up to $100 for carry-on bags.
I’d like to see this go even further and include all the other kinds of fees that can be thrown your way, like for kids flying solo, pets and the new Spirit fee charging $10 to print a boarding pass at the airport.
The airlines want to show you a low number when it comes to fares, but it’s a fictitious number that doesn’t exist. When I shop for airfares, don’t make me add up this fee and that tax. Just give me the facts and tell me how much it is really going to cost to fly.
That’s the bottom line, folks.
Tom Parsons is CEO of www.bestfares.com. Email him at email@example.com.