DOT again delays ruling on airline fees

By Kate Rice
The Department of Transportation has delayed action until May on its “Enhancing Traveler Protections III” rulemaking, in which it is considering a number of proposals.

The delay is five months later than DOT’s previous target date and nearly 18 months behind the original timeline.

The most contentious rule would require GDS-participating airlines to list their ancillary services and fees in the GDSs. Airlines are against that proposed mandate, contending that ancillary services are leverage in contract negotiations with the GDSs.

The GDSs and consumer advocates contend that the GDSs have been charging for ancillary services for five years and have made little progress in making them available to consumers who want to conveniently shop for the lowest price.

The rulemaking also covers a proposal that would require travel agents to disclose that they do not sell all airlines (if that is the case) and that other airlines may serve the route that the consumer is searching.

Another proposed rule is requiring agencies to disclose any incentives they receive for selling a particular airline, and whether they give preferential display of particular fares or airlines.

A consumer committee impaneled to advise the DOT on these rules met several times over the summer and presented recommendations to the DOT earlier this fall. It “encouraged” transparency but did not get more specific than that in its recommendations.

Once the DOT publishes its proposed rulemaking, there will be a three-month comment period for the public.

A DOT spokesman said that the agency has “received valuable information from the airline and ticket agent industries, among other aviation stakeholders, that has been helpful in preparing the proposed rule and analysis. DOT is reviewing this information and working to finalize the proposal.”

Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.
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