Southwest, Spirit and Allegiant lose challenge of consumer rules

By Bill Poling
Airlines challenging the Transportation Department’s new consumer rules lost a round in their court case, when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington denied their motion for a stay of some of the rules.

In a unanimous order without elaboration, the court said the parties “have not satisfied the stringent requirements” for a stay.

Those requirements include a showing that the petitioners will suffer immediate and irreparable harm without a stay, a point that might have been difficult to establish because the DOT has already postponed the effective date of all the challenged provisions until Jan. 24.

The stay was requested by three airlines — Allegiant, Southwest and Spirit — all of whom challenged the DOT’s decision to reverse its policy on price advertising.

Currently, airlines can break out certain taxes and fees in a flight listing or advertisement if they are adequately explained nearby. The new rule would reverse that policy and require advertised or displayed prices to include all taxes and fees, whether imposed by governments, carriers or intermediaries.

Allegiant and Spirit, in addition, sought a stay of the following provisions:

• A requirement that airlines allow travelers to hold a reservation for 24 hours without payment, or to grant cash refunds for cancellations made within 24 hours of payment.

• A requirement that e-ticket confirmations include a notice disclosing airline baggage allowances and fees.

• A rule prohibiting post-purchase increases in airfares or in any component of an air-inclusive package.

• A requirement that airlines and travel sellers inform customers who make a deposit about the potential for a price increase between the time of deposit and the due date for final payment. Airlines and travel sellers will be required to obtain the traveler’s written consent — otherwise any increase cannot be passed on.
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