by Michael J. Shapiro | October 01, 2014
Both the Global Business Travel Association and the Travel Technology Association voiced support for better transparency of airline ancillary fees to the U.S. Department of Transportation Monday, in the form of comments to the agency's Passenger Protection Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (the comment period on the proposed rules is now closed). All airlines should be required to disclose all baggage and other ancillary fees to consumers before they buy their tickets, said the GBTA in a statement. "The lack of consistency and transparency in the pricing and application of ancillary fees in all categories of travel, but especially for air travel, is a major challenge for business travel managers," said GBTA executive director and COO Michael W. McCormick. According to GBTA research, baggage fees rose from $464 million in 2007 to $3.35 billion in 2013; reservation change fees rose from $915 million to $2.8 billion over the same time period. "With better insight into how these fees work, travel managers can make more informed choices," McCormick told the DOT. "Business travelers and their companies must be presented with an accurate and trackable view of fares and fees."

The Travel Technology Association similarly approved of such measures. "Travel Tech supports DOT's efforts to make ancillary services and fees such as baggage, seat selection and early boarding available to the consumer at the time of shopping and ticket purchase," wrote Travel Tech president Steve Shur. "There are clear consumer benefits to be achieved with such a policy, although DOT needs to go further to ensure transactability and to ensure that GDSs receive the ancillary fee information."

Travel Tech went on to criticize the wide-ranging DOT document, specifically attacking proposed regulations for ticket agents. "Unlike the department's ancillary-fee actions, these proposed regulations are not based on consumer complaints or to correct a marketplace failure," wrote Shur. "Among the most alarming concerns for all ticket agents is a potential outcome that requires ticket agents to disclose airline information to consumers but does not require the airlines to provide that information to [global distribution systems] and [online travel agencies]. This would result in an untenable situation for participants in the distribution channel, where approximately 50 percent of all air travel is booked."

The Department of Transportation is now reviewing all comments as it develops the proposed legislation.