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There’s good news for opponents of the Transparent Airfares Act, the bill that would allow airlines to initially hide the true cost of airfares from consumers: It no longer exists in the new Congress that began its session last month.
Any bill that has not completed the entire legislative process by the end of a Congressional session automatically dies, and sponsors must reintroduce the bill in a new Congress if they still want to pass it.
The Transparent Airfares Act would make it legal for airlines to initially advertise base fares without government fees or taxes and only show consumers the real ticket price when they’re about to check out. The bill already had a bleak future when the Senate didn’t take action on it after it passed the House last summer.
Some House co-sponsors now question the bill’s intent, making its chances even weaker.
The second guessers are “a number of key Democrats” in the House, says Charlie Leocha, founder of Traveler’s United and Ed Perkins, a contributing editor to Smarter Travel Media, though neither could say how many representatives may withdraw their support or who they are. Both regularly attend meetings on Capitol Hill concerning travel legislation.
“It’s almost like the bill never happened even though it did,” said Leocha. “Some of the original co-sponsors have second doubts that this is a bill of goods that the airlines manipulated them to take action on.”
“I should add sponsorship coming out of the House bill was amazingly bipartisan. We could not turn any of the Democrats away from the bill and it had strong Democratic support.”
Much of the travel industry realized the bill was replete with problems upon learning of its introduction nearly a year ago. “This bill was passed in the same way that post offices are named,” said Perkins. “It came through on a procedural vote in the House last summer and slipped through. Now that there’s a Republican majority in the House and Senate, I don’t think it will slide through like that again.”
Perkins, like many others, feels the bill’s passage would lead to airlines adopting a loose definition of what government fees actually are.
“I also suspect the airlines will interpret the term ‘government’ to mean that they can omit carrier-imposed fees as well, said Perkins.”
Leocha and Paul Ruden, executive vice president, legal and industry affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents, say the FAA’s reauthorization bill, which would come up later this year, is the next legislative item the travel industry should watch.
“Although I’m not predicting this, looking at the airline side the most likely target is getting [The Transparent Airfares Act] tacked on to the FAA reauthorization later this year,” said Ruden. “Seeing this as a stand-alone bill with its own hearing seems unlikely to me.”
Ruden said Democrats turning their backs on the bill hasn’t officially happened yet since no original sponsor has withdrawn his or her name. Republicans make up the majority of the original 50 co-sponsors, with 30 representatives in that party versus 20 Democrats.
Since both chambers of Congress now have Republican majorities, there’s a possibility the bill could move forward without the Democrats, though nothing has happened yet.
“Nothing is happening so far, but if something does happen this time we’ll be ready,” said Leocha. “Last year we were taken by surprise and were scrambling the day before the vote.”
The House Transportation Committee confirmed it hasn’t made a move to reintroduce the bill.