Sabre urges agents to push hard for ancillary price transparency

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DALLAS — Sabre is rallying agents to join its campaign to make the pricing of airlines’ ancillary services transparent to consumers. 

Brian Hauser, Sabre’s vice president of customer marketing, spoke to about 200 Nexion agents attending the host agency's annual conference Thursday about pricing transparency.

Currently, all airlines are required to display the cost of ancillary services — some of which used to be included in the price of an airline ticket and some of which are new — on their websites. Airlines For America, the U.S. airlines’ trade group, said that provides full transparency. But each airline displays that information differently, and the way consumers shop for and buy those services varies from airline to airline.

Hauser showed agents a video in which a couple buys tickets for the movies and then discovers when they get to the theater that they have to pay an additional fee to sit together, an additional fee to get into an express line to get into the theater, and an additional fee to get seats with the best view.

Hauser said that the video is a humorous way to portray the airline consumer's experience today. 

"You've all heard about the family that gets to the airport and finds they have to pay an extra $100 or $200 to sit together," he said.

Hauser said that airlines collected $22 billion in ancillary fees last year — and said that those fees are important to airlines and it is critical for the travel industry to have a healthy airline industry. But, it's important that consumers know in advance the full cost of a trip.

Hauser said that the Department of Transportation works to protect consumers’ rights and its efforts are the reason that consumers now see airfares that include taxes and fees and additional charges such as fuel surcharges. Previously, an airline might post a transatlantic fare, but travelers might discover a fuel surcharge added to that when they buy the ticket.

Hauser said that current pricing-transparency requirements are missing one thing: disclosure of ancillary fees. He told agents that they could tell the DOT their feelings about the need for more transparency when it comes to ancillary fees through www.letthemarketfly.com. A DOT advisory committee for aviation consumer protection will make its recommendations to the DOT; agents can send their comments to the DOT as well.

After the presentation, as part of Nexion's cowboy theme, Hauser "deputized" Nexion President Jackie Friedman to lead Nexion agents in a campaign for transparency on ancillary prices.

Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.

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