ASTA has begun a grassroots campaign against the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 (H.R.4156), which ASTA says will allow airlines to deceive travelers about the cost of a flight.
The bill, which is pending in the House, would allow airlines to state base prices in advertisements and fair dislays, exclusive of tax, as long as taxes and government fees are "clearly and separately" disclosed.
A 2012 Transportation Department rule requires airlines, OTAs and other travel sellers to advertise and quote the full price to be paid by the consumer, including all government-imposed taxes and fees. Taxes and fees can be listed separately, as long as the total price is displayed more prominently than the individual components.
Airlines 4 America, the trade group for U.S. airlines, says that the DOT rule reduces transparency by hiding the amount of government fees, and treats airfare advertising differently than advertising for virtually all other consumer products. In a press release praising the bill, A4A said that the DOT rule makes air travel less price-competitive when compared with other modes of travel.
ASTA disagrees and is asking members to write their members of Congress and ask them to oppose the bill. The Society is also asking members to request that their co-workers and other colleagues get involved.
"We need for anyone concerned about anti-consumer practices to tell their member of Congress that this so-called Transparent Airfare Act doesn't fly," said ASTA CEO Zane Kerby. "This bill would allow airlines to deceive travelers about the actual cost of a flight, a fight they already lost in 2012 when the Department of Transportation put rules in place to prevent precisely this situation."
Kerby added that airlines had challenged the rule in court but lost. When they tried to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court, it refused to hear the case, he said.
"Congress should stay its hand here. There is no evidence of consumer harm under the DOT rule, only benefits for the traveling public," said Kerby. Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.