Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has introduced a bill that she
says would improve transparency and customer service standards for the sale of
The Air Travel Ticketing Transparency and Protection Act
would make tweaks to Klobuchar-sponsored language that is in the current
version of the Senate FAA reauthorization bill. It would ask the Department of
Transportation (DOT) to synchronize airfare disclosure rules so that OTAs,
metasearch sites and brick-and-mortar travel agencies with annual revenues of
at least $100 million operate under the same airfare-disclosure requirements as
"Most people know what it's like to purchase an airline
ticket, only to be hit later with hidden fees. Whether it's a family looking
for affordable flights or a small business-owner looking for the best frequent
flier program, consumers deserve to know up front exactly what the costs of
their travel will be," Klobuchar said in a prepared statement. "This
legislation will ensure transparency across all ticket sellers so consumers
have the information they need to make informed choices about their air travel."
The legislation has the support of several consumer advocacy
groups, including Consumers Union, Flyers Rights and Travelers United.
"The wording of the bill promotes transparency and the
sharing of pricing data," Travelers United chairman Charlie Leocha wrote
in an email to Travel Weekly.
However, OTA and metasearch site advocates oppose the
legislation, saying that it would require them to disclose information that the
airlines aren't required to even pass along to them. As such, they say, the
bill is a backdoor way to give airlines more control over ticket sales by
helping them reduce online comparison shopping.
"Despite the pleas made by many different concerned
consumer, business and expert groups on this issue during the past several
weeks, there is still not a single word in this brief, 370-word bill that
requires the airlines to share the fare, schedule and other information
necessary for the online travel industry to be able to comply," said Kurt
Ebenhoch, executive director of the Air Travel Fairness Coalition.
In the new legislation, Klobuchar added language that
appears intended to ease the type of concerns voiced by Ebenhoch. For example,
it calls on the DOT to develop a final rule "to enable and require large
ticket agents to adopt minimum customer service standards."
The existing Senate bill doesn't include the word "enable."
Klobuchar said she is working to include the new legislation
in the Senate's pending FAA reauthorization bill.
In April, the House passed an FAA reauthorization bill with
requirements for new disclosures from large travel agencies and metasearch
sites. ASTA was among the organizations opposing the measure.
Disagreement over the new Klobuchar bill came on the same
day that airline consumer advocates held a public teleconference to voice
concerns about various developments related to regulatory oversight of
Those advocates are especially worried about a measure
included the House FAA bill that would end the full-fare rule, which requires
airlines to display government taxes and fees as part of the ticket price from
the beginning of a fare inquiry. Another House measure would put an end to the
requirement that airlines give consumers 24 hours from the time of purchase to
cancel or change a ticket free of charge.
Advocates also continue to be irked by last December's
decision of DOT secretary Elaine Chao to nix an Obama administration proposal
to require airlines and travel agents to disclose fees for carry-on and checked
bags from the beginning of a fare inquiry.
During the call, consumer advocacy stalwart Ralph Nader
stressed that to make progress on airline-related matters, the consumer
advocacy community must do a better job of working with a unified voice.
"The answer is to get together the business travelers,
the non-business traveler constituencies and all the others," Nader said.