Congress Hates You, Votes To Bring Back Glory Days Of Opaque Airfare Pricing

Remember the good ol’ days of 2011, when you would see an airline advertising $99 tickets to somewhere nice, only to later find out that the actual airfare was much higher? For some reason that has absolutely nothing to do with huge amounts of donation money from the travel industry, the House of Representatives has decided that consumers should no longer have access to transparent airfares.

The ridiculously named Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 was introduced in the House earlier this year by Pennsylvania professional airline puppet Congressman Bill Shuster, and was passed by the House earlier today by voice vote.

The legislation was rushed through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee earlier this year with no hearings, no public debate, and no calls for comments. It has support from both Democrat and Republican members of Congress, demonstrating that their hatred of consumers knows no party affiliation.

In spite of its name, the bill seeks to overturn the 2012 FAA rules that required airlines to include taxes and fees into their advertised fares. In 2013, the airline industry tried to fight it in court, but failed miserably. And so they turned to Shuster, whose top campaign contributors include United Airlines, Atlas Air, Airlines for America, and Delta.

In fact, Shuster was the candidate who received the most money from all but one of those donors with a vested interest in hiding the truth from air travelers. And he was second only to Cory Booker on United’s donation list — which isn’t surprising since Booker is the former Mayor of Newark, one of United’s main hubs.

But again, this wasn’t about huge amounts of money being poured into his campaign by the airline industry.

No, he maintains that his legislation isn’t intended to make fares more opaque, it’s to point out how much the government tacks on to airfares.

Thing is, there’s nothing preventing an airline from making it incredibly easy for consumers to see just how much of that total cost belongs to the airline and how much is going to the feds.

When Airline X lists a fare to Chicago, it could show right there on the poster ($XXX for the base airfare + $YYY for taxes and fees).

But airlines don’t want that. They want to be able to say “$XXX* to Chicago” and then have that asterisk explained on its website or in the fine print of the ad.

And so rather than a bill that would require airlines to provide more information to consumers, Shuster and his jet-fueled pals are happy to plunge us back into the dark ages of opaque airfare pricing.

“This is an industry-backed bill that should never have been cleared for takeoff in the first place,” says William J. McGee, aviation and transportation consultant to Consumers Union. “Despite its title, the Transparent Airfares Act would only serve to make the bottom line airfare price more opaque and harder for consumers to shop. Proponents of the legislation claim that consumers are being harmed because taxes and fees imposed are being ‘hidden’, which is simply untrue. The real harm to consumers would come from making it even more difficult to pinpoint the total cost of a ticket when travelers are already dealing with an influx of new airline fees for anything from carrying on bags, selecting seats, or calling reservation centers. Consumers Union strongly opposes this legislation and urges the Senate to block any similar legislative effort.”

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