New Rules Proposed Require Airlines, Booking Sites To Disclose Fees Beyond Base Fare Upfront

The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing a rule requiring airlines and online third-party booking sites to disclose certain fees beyond the base fare up front.

The new proposed rule, which would significantly strengthen protections for consumers by ensuring that they have access to certain fee information before they purchase their airline tickets, was announced by President Joe Biden at a meeting of the White House Competition Council.

Biden said, “You should know the full cost of your ticket right when you’re comparison shopping to begin with where you’re — what airline you’re going to fly with so you can pick the ticket that actually is the best deal for you”.

Under the proposed rule, airlines and travel search websites would have to disclose upfront — the first time an airfare is displayed — any fees charged to sit with the passenger’s child, for changing or cancelling flight, and for checked or carry-on baggage. The proposal seeks to provide customers the information they need to choose the best deal from various airlines. Otherwise, surprise fees can add up quickly and overcome what may look at first to be a cheap fare.

Under the Department’s proposal, U.S. air carriers, foreign air carriers, and ticket agents (third party sellers of air transportation and online “metasearch” sites that display air travel options) would be required to clearly disclose passenger-specific or itinerary-specific baggage fees, change fees, cancellation fees, and family seating fees to consumers whenever fare and schedule information is provided to consumers for flights to, within, and from the United States.

These fees would be required to be displayed as passenger-specific or itinerary-specific based on the consumer’s choice. Because seat availability and fees can fluctuate frequently, the Department is also proposing to require carriers and ticket agents to enable consumers traveling with a young child to purchase the seats with the fare at all points of sale.

The Department further proposes to require that carriers provide useable, current, and accurate information regarding baggage fees, change fees, cancellation fees, and adjacent seating fees for families traveling with young children, to ticket agents that sell or display the carrier’s fare and schedule information.

The issuance of the Enhancing Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees NPRM is one of the many steps the Department of Transportation is taking to protect consumers.

DOT urged members of the public and interested parties to submit comments on this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) within 60 days of the notice is published in the Federal Register.

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