Airlines contend they provide the fees on their own websites and can spread the information more broadly through specific deals such as the one Delta Air Lines has to market seats with extra legroom on its two-class aircraft.
But consumer advocates, travel agents and the companies that provide ticket-price comparisons argue that the government needs to force airlines to provide the data so customers can compare. The difference is between going to specific sites, such as Southwest Airlines, or to comparison sites such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity.
The fight will get a public airing Aug. 7, when a consumer-advocate panel that makes recommendations to the DOT will look at the department’s plans to issue a rule by late November that could force airlines to provide the computerized information about all their fees to comparison companies.
” “Consumers are being denied the ability to compare prices,” says Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance and a member of the panel called the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection. “They can’t compare apples to apples easily.”
Robert Rivkin, DOT general counsel, says disclosing prices for more than 100 categories of fees quickly isn’t an easy task. “That is something we are looking at very carefully, as you know, but we have to make sure we understand all the unintended and intended consequences of that,” Rivkin says.