Could the Total Cost Airfare Rule Be Rescinded?

Are airlines and the federal government of the United States attempting to hide the taxes it charges you for every airfare you purchase from the advertised price of the airfare? Photograph of airplane above the clouds ©istockphoto.com by Elenathewise. Photograph of hundred dollar bills hidden behind curled page ©istockphoto.com by stevanovicigor. Composite image assembled by Brian Cohen.

You might once again see airfares advertised for a very low price — before taxes, fees and surcharges are included to represent the true cost of what you will pay for your airline ticket — if the airlines and thirty members of the Congress of the United States have it their way.

Bill Shuster — a Republican congressman representing District 9 in Pennsylvania — is sponsoring the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, which “declares that it shall not be an unfair or deceptive practice for an air carrier or other covered entity to state the base airfare in an advertisement or solicitation for passenger air transportation if it clearly and separately discloses: (1) the government-imposed taxes and fees for the air transportation, and (2) its total cost.”

The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 defines “base airfare” to mean the cost of passenger air transportation — excluding government-imposed taxes and fees; and defines “covered entity” as an air carrier — including an indirect air carrier, foreign carrier, ticket agent, or other person offering to sell tickets for passenger air transportation or a tour or tour component that must be purchased with air transportation.

It is no surprise that many airlines support the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, as it would essentially reverse the Total Cost Airfare Rule which became effective on January 26, 2012. Here is the supposed list of supporters for the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014:

  • Air Line Pilots Association International
  • Airlines for America
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Allied Pilots Association
  • American Airlines
  • Americans for Tax Reform
  • Association of Flight Attendants – CWA
  • Coalition of Airline Pilots Association
  • Cost of Government Center
  • Delta Air Lines
  • International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association
  • Spirit Airlines
  • United Airlines

 

Airlines infamous for advertising ultra-low airfares such as Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines — the latter of which advertises so-called “$9.00 airfares” — had reportedly filed legal appeals two years ago to have the United States Court of Appeals in the Washington, D.C. circuit overturn the rule, claiming that the rule “violates commercial free speech rights.”

I have always been against what I perceive as deceptive advertising. I want to know the total cost of what I am paying when I book an airfare — or a hotel room or rental car, for that matter; and I have always believed that the full price should be what is advertised…

…and that should include all taxes, fees and surcharges. I do not want to see an airfare advertised for nine dollars and wind up paying $300.00 after all taxes, fees and surcharges are finally included.

If this discussion is of any indication, most FlyerTalk members seem to agree.

Calling the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 “a total waste of time”, FlyerTalk member timfountain does not know why it is even up for discussion.

Perhaps the reasons are political in nature. “The average passenger doesn’t care what makes up the price, only what the price will be to get on the plane and get where they’re going (and come back)”, according to FlyerTalk member Spoddy. “This is just a political movement to return to the times when airlines can advertise their cheap fare to draw you in.”

The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 was introduced and referred to the House Public Works and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation — a subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — on March 6, 2014; and it was reported by Committee on April 9, 2014. The remaining three steps is that it needs to be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate; and then signed by the president of the United States…

…and there is a chance of 70 percent that the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 will be enacted, according to GovTrack.us, which is an official Internet web site of Civic Impulse, LLC.

“What I think would be perfectly fair to both airlines and consumers is: Fares available from $720 + $150 NON-AIRLINE taxes and fees, so it’s fair to airlines that people won’t be decepted into thinking the fare is higher than it is to the airline, but doesn’t make comparative shopping too hard”, opined FlyerTalk member 1353513636.

“A poor idea”, posted FlyerTalk member Spiff. “Total price should be required up-front. And ‘price each way based on round trip purchase’ when one cannot get the same fare just one way should not be permitted.”

FlyerTalk member SpartanTravelerwill make sure to vote against any politician who supports this bill and encourage all my friends, family, and colleagues to do the same. This bill is nothing but a way for airlines to mislead customers. Any politician who supports this bill is a snake who doesn’t deserve to remain in office and I will make sure everyone I know learns about it. I will gather a list of all the politicians who support this bill and clearly show how they are voting against their constituents interests and opening the floodgates to fraudulent advertising. Then have people hand the list out at airports and posted throughout the terminals.”

You can start here with the 29 co-sponsors of the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, SpartanTraveler.

If you are an American citizen who is opposed to the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 — also known as H.R. 4156 — you are urged to contact your representative in Congress and let him or her know your thoughts and how you feel. You can also express your thoughts to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — of which Bill Shuster is chairman — here as well.

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Comments (Showing 7 of 7)

  • harvyk at 7:32pm April 22, 2014

    I personally believe that what they say you pay must be all that leaves your wallet to receive the goods and / or services as described. I don’t mind if there are optional expenses which I can chose to include to obtain something higher, but until paying taxes becomes optional, stating that “$9 represents the true value of the airfare” is total BS IMHO, because for me, the consumer no it doesn’t, the full cost (inc all mandatory fees and taxes) of using the services provided is the true cost of the airfare, to say anything else is pretty much lying to your customers…

  • dlflyer2 at 8:48am April 23, 2014

    Why is it that the US is one of the few holdouts from publishing the actual cost of things whether it be flying, dining, or consuming?

    Most other countries show you the full cost with a breakout of fees and taxes. In the US, a base price is shown; then tips, facility fees and taxes are added resulting in a price that is 20-30% higher.

    What is wrong with knowing the full price at the point of selection? Would more people refuse to buy if they knew the true cost?

    • Brian Cohen at 9:10am April 23, 2014

      I certainly would not refuse to purchase if I knew the true cost, dlflyer2
      …but companies will resort to whatever tricks are legally available to them to give the impression of a lower price. For example, fuel stations in the United States do display the full price per gallon of fuel which includes all taxes and fees — but the prices are displayed in .9 of a cent. I never understood that. I suppose it feels better to say “Hey — I paid $3.99 per gallon for gas” when the cost is actually $4.00 per gallon; or, more specifically, $3.99.9…

  • MME1 at 7:17am April 29, 2014

    Wait now. The taxes are the same for every airline so what difference does it make if an airline separates its costs from the total cost and shows you how much taxes raise the cost of the ticket? In the end, the two costs are added together to give you what actually leaves your pocket. Not a fight worth fighting as far as I am concerned. If you advertise a $9.00 fare from DFW-DCA, We all know you will pay $9.00 plus the taxes from DFW to DCA, which will be the same for all airlines, right? Please educate me if I am missing something here.

  • fischi at 1:09am April 30, 2014

    MME1 – the taxes are the same by airline, but not by route, so that a flight from LA to London with a base fare of 600 can vary depending on if/where the plane stops. But if you look at the DOT’s rationale for this rule (see http://www.elliott.org/wp-content/uploads/DOT-OST-2010-0140-0003.pdf), it focuses more on the effort buyers of airfare were undertaking to figure out the total cost, than the loss from being “tricked” into buying a more expensive total fare. Even though they estimated a very low number of shoppers were even looking at non-full fare advertising, and even though they thought it took a small amount of time to find the full fare if you were interested, the total time cost across all of those ticket purchases was still pretty significant.

  • MisterBill at 8:24pm May 02, 2014

    MME1 – you may know that there are extra fees and taxes, and most members here may know, but John Q Public doesn’t know that. An artificially low fare may get someone to plan a trip based on the price that they didn’t intend to take, only to find out when trying to buy it that the real price is much more expensive.

  • MisterBill at 8:25pm May 02, 2014

    PS what airline is in Shuster’s district, or who is a large campaign contributor of his to get him to sponsor this?

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