The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Orwellian-titled Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 (H.R. 4156). The bill, based on a big airline lie, was rushed out of the Transportation Committee with just airlines' input and was inappropriately included on the suspension calendar. H.R. 4156 would harm consumers by reversing a U.S. Department of Transportation rule implemented in 2012 as a cure to misleading airline advertising.
H.R. 4156 is a special-interest bill premised upon airlines' major misrepresentation that the DOT rule is forcing them to hide federal taxes and fees in advertisements. Indeed, in rejecting airlines' 2012 federal court challenge to that DOT rule -- that airlines now hope to use Congress to override -- the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rightly sided with DOT observing: "Based on common sense and over three decades of experience and complaints, DOT concluded that it was deceitful and misleading when the most prominent price listed by an airline is anything other than the total, final price of air travel....Contrary to the airlines' repeated suggestions, nothing in the Airfare Advertising Rule requires airlines to hide the taxes."
H.R. 4156, if passed by the Senate and signed into law, would not increase transparency in shopping for and purchasing air travel, but rather, would obfuscate the air travel purchasing process for consumers by enshrining drip pricing in law, enabling airlines to present lowball prices to lure consumers into a misleading and deceitful shopping and purchasing process.
The legislative process that the House followed was shameful. All consumer groups loathed H.R. 4156 as soon as they learned of it after it was voted out Committee. It was a bill they never had the chance to critique in any sort of open hearings with the opportunity for the debate that is the customary and democratic process -- and then a bill passed on the suspension calendar as if it were as non-controversial as the innocuous items placed on the suspension calendar with it. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) received some $200,000 from the air transport industry in 2013-2014 and allowed airlines to highjack the legislative process in the House, a process greased with money.
To better understand how deep and broad the concern and controversy are over this bill, visit http://btc.travel for a multitude of industry statements, editorials and press stories.
Kevin Mitchell is founder of the Business Travel Coalition (610-999-9247; Mitchell@BusinessTravelCoalition.com), established in 1994 to interpret industry and government policies and practices and provide a platform so that the managed travel community can influence issues of strategic importance to their organizations.