The Biden Administration, under Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, is walking the talk on protecting airline consumers. Disclosing fees right off the bat is a significant move forward in passenger rights.
The U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT) on Monday proposed requiring airlines disclose fees for baggage, ticket changes and family seating the first time an airfare is displayed.
This is the latest in a series of rules the Biden administration has proposed to boost airline consumer protections.
“Airline passengers deserve to know the full, true cost of their flights before they buy a ticket,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The administration noted in 2021 large airlines had $700 million in cancellation and change fee revenue. A major airline trade group did not immediately comment.
USDOT said current requirements means consumers often receive information about fees after ticket purchases when they get confirmation “which is not sufficient disclosure.”
Last month, Buttigieg told Reuters airline rules were in need of a “refresh.” Buttigieg has pressed airlines to improve customer service after tens of thousands of flight cancellations and delays this summer. The administration also threatened new rules if airlines did not ensure young children could sit with parents.
The White House plans to tout the plan at Monday’s third meeting of President Joe Biden’s competition council created in 2021. A White House official said Biden will direct federal agencies “to train their focus on hidden fees that raise costs for consumers.”
In July 2021, USDOT proposed rules to require airlines to refund fees for significantly delayed bags and refunds for services like onboard Wi-Fi that do not work.
Under existing U.S. rules, passengers are entitled to a fee refund if bags are lost, but not when delayed.
USDOT has faced criticism from some for not doing more to hold airlines accountable.
In August, 36 state attorneys general criticized airlines and USDOT and called for new powers to investigate airline consumer complaints.
“Americans are justifiably frustrated that federal government agencies charged with overseeing airline consumer protection are unable or unwilling to hold the airline industry accountable and to swiftly investigate complaints,” the state AGs said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Catherine Evans, Andrea Ricci and Marguerita Choy)