ASTA wants DOT to drill down deeper on airline fees

By Johanna Jainchill
ASTA called for clarification on airline boarding priority fees and seating assignments, in comments filed with the Department of Transportation.

Declaring that the "mystery of ancillary fee charges is worsening," ASTA filed the comments in response to DOT’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Reporting Ancillary Airline Passenger Revenues. In July, DOT proposed to collect more detailed information on airline revenue generated from ancillary fees.

In its comments, ASTA said that it supports the adoption of the proposed rules, but said that if the DOT has admitted difficulty determining the average total cost of air travel, "it is many times more difficult for consumers to determine and compare costs."

"Multiplying new fees for seat selection, boarding priority and others are buried in large generic categories for reporting purposes, obscuring the role they play in airline finances and making measurement of the consumer impact impossible," ASTA wrote.

"Boarding priority is becoming increasingly important as fees for checked and carry-on bags impact passenger behavior regarding the bringing of storable items on the aircraft. The list of specific reportable fees should, therefore, include 'boarding priority fees.'"

ASTA said that seating assignments should be broken out into separate categories or sub-categories to reflect class of service upgrades, specific seat assignment fees and seat-position fees (aisle, middle, window).

“It is far from clear that these seating-related fees are going to be subject to normal competitive pressure, especially, but not only, if the airlines are not required to share the fee schemes with travel agencies or are not required to let travel agencies sell the ancillary services at time of ticket purchase or such other time as the airline itself offers them for sale,” ASTA said.
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