I love when our elected representatives decide to speak up and express just how idiotic their thoughts are. I’ve heard a Representative state for the record that she thought Adobe Acrobat should be outlawed, for example, but I’m not so convinced that her view there is more ridiculous than that put forth today by Representative Tom Graves of Georgia. Graves, who represents Georgia’s 9th Congressional District (North of Atlanta, up to the Tennessee, North Carolina and Alabama borders), has announced that he will be introducing legislation which will repeal the DoT rule requiring airlines to list the full price of tickets, including all taxes, when they advertise.
This rule, put forth as part of the DoT’s consumer protection efforts, has come under attack from such legendary consumer advocates as Sprit Airlines, who is complaining the rule violates their first amendment rights because they cannot advertise one number and then charge a completely different number when the customer goes to actually make the purchase. Seems like just the sort of actions that should be protected, right?
The Congressman has a very simple premise for why the rule is bad: It prevents the airlines from indicating what part of the fare is actually the fare and what part is taxes and fees.
The federal government should not be inserting itself in the private sector to limit consumers’ ability to see how much they’re getting taxed. If the American people can’t see these costs clearly, I fear it will be easier these fees and taxes to be raised without their knowledge.
There’s just one problem with this line of thought (two, really, but I’m ignoring that the second line there isn’t a complete sentence): it is completely unfounded in reality. There is absolutely nothing in the rule that prevents the airlines from explaining in excruciating detail how much the taxes are and how much the fare is. There is nothing preventing them from reminding the consumer that there are a dozen or so different taxes and fees on the average airfare and way more on international itineraries. What the rule does, however, is prevent an airline from advertising a $9 fare which cannot be purchased for less than $20, no matter how hard you try. And that’s a good thing for consumers.
Fare listings like these, which are fully compliant with the rules, make it quite clear what the taxes and fees are, without violating the DoT rules:
And, yet, somehow apparently it is actually impossible for the airlines and OTAs to actually publish the information this way, as they are inhibited by the DoT rules. Strange, isn’t it, how they’ve managed to do it anyways??
I understand the complaint that nothing else in the USA is required to be marketed with the all-in price rather than allowing for customers to be surprised at the cash register. Let’s not use the examples of things that are bad for us as citizens as examples of why progress shouldn’t be made. Let’s got the other direction instead. Let’s hold hotels and rental car companies accountable, too. Let’s stop rental car companies from hiding the 50%+ surcharges until the final page of the check-out process. Let’s stop hotels from adding on $15-30 or more, per guest, per night, as a "resort fee" rather than actually including those charges in the fine print. After all, you cannot avoid paying them.
There is nothing wrong with calling attention to the fact that the average airfare has so many taxes associated with it. But pretending that there is some unwritten rule out there which is somehow preventing airlines from actually doing so is just plain lying.
Time to step up and face the facts, Congressman Graves: you’re full of it. Step up and do something that actually helps your constituents rather than lying to them. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it when elections roll around.
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