U.S. Travel Association President and CEO, Roger Dow, voiced tepid support for H.R. 4156, the "Transparent Airfares Act of 2014," and urged lawmakers to incorporate further changes in the bill to provide air travelers with the full scope of the legislation's promise: a clear view of the costs built into ticket prices.
"The impetus for the bill is solid, but it could be more accurately called the 'Translucent Airfares Act' because it doesn't go far enough in providing the transparency in airfare pricing that consumers crave," Dow said. "It only gets halfway there by still allowing sites to obfuscate the full price of an airline ticket. If we're going to do this, let's do it right the first time, and finish the job.
"We appreciate that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is working to improve the traveler experience, and we hope its members will make the necessary changes to ensure travelers have the most accurate and complete information possible."
H.R. 4156 purports to boost transparency by allowing increased disclosure of the taxes and fees built into ticket prices. But the bill would permit advertisers and other sellers of air transportation to hide the bottom-line cost of airfare in separate links or in pop-up windows, making it more difficult for consumers to quickly understand and easily compare "all-in" prices among carriers.
Dow argued Congress should make sure consumers have both.
"Don't just swap one kind of transparency for another," he said. "Let's take this opportunity to shine a full light on the costs associated with air travel."
Dow noted that much of the extra cost of travel funds essential services, such as security and facilities upgrades, that directly benefit the traveler. He argued it's only logical to let travelers know all of what they're paying for.
Dow also pointed out that other industry sectors—for example, car rental vendors—routinely build taxes and fees into their advertised costs.
Said Dow: "We in the travel community will fight for three basic principles in any changes to aviation fee structures. One, transparency, so consumers can clearly see all of what they're paying for. Two, value, so consumers are assured that the dollars they spend are coming back to them in the form of services and amenities. Three, efficiency, so that the travel experience is free of hassles at every stage, from when a traveler purchases their ticket online to when they step out to the curb at their destination.
"H.R. 4156 needs some work before it successfully captures all of those criteria."