The Department of Transportation (DOT) is citing new “administrative priorities” — alluding to an executive order signed by President Trump on Jan. 30, 2017 — as the reason why they’re ceasing efforts to force airlines to make additional fees transparent for consumers.
In a statement published last week on the government agency’s website, Secretary Elaine Chao said, very contradictorily: “The department is committed to protecting consumers from hidden fees and to ensuring transparency. However, we do not believe that departmental action is necessary to meet this objective at this time.”
This past week the DOT withdrew two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking originally proposed in 2011 and in 2017 under the Obama administration, that would have collected detailed revenue information on additional airline fees and required airlines to disclose those fees to consumers.
Consumer advocates wasted no time deriding this new move and expressing disappointment with a decision they say makes it that much more difficult for consumers to get a fair shake when booking air travel and assessing airline fees.
“We are disappointed with the DOT’s decision,” Eben Peck, ASTA (American Society Of Travel Agents) Executive vice president, advocacy, said in a statement, per Travel Market Report. “While a far cry from the full transparency in and consumer access to airline ancillary fees ASTA has been pushing for since 2011, the Department’s January 2017 proposal requiring that consumers be notified of airline bag fees at all points of sale – including through travel agents – was a step in the right direction.”
Others, such as Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org — the largest airline passenger non-profit organization— said, “This is NOT how you make air travel great again. Airlines are already exempt from all state and local consumer protection, much antitrust law, most other federal regulations and tort law. The DOT is their sole regulator.”
As Hudson also pointed out, Congress and federal courts can still intervene and overturn the DOT’s decision, but barring their involvement, airlines will be able to continue burying hidden fees into fares while luring consumers in with lower initial rates.