Senator Introduces 'Real Transparency in Airfares Act'

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has introduced a new bill that would increase consumer protections for air travelers, he announced yesterday.

“We may be living in the Information Age, but for passengers trying to understand the full cost of their airfare, it often feels more like the Stone Age,” Menendez said in a statement. “There are more hidden costs seemingly every time they fly — bag fees, seat fees, pet fee. For years, airlines tried to hide these costs from travelers, making air travel look significantly cheaper than it actually is.”

Airlines and tickets sellers are currently required to do what’s called “full-fare advertising” — showing the full base airfare to consumers, including all taxes, which helps travelers understand the full cost of their base airfare as soon as they begin shopping for flights. A new bill proposed in the House of Representatives, however — called the “Transparent Airfares Act” — would allow airlines and ticket sellers to list taxes in a different place on their website, making prices look lower than they really are.

Menendez’s bill, the “Real Transparency in Airfares Act,” would maintain the current rule and increase penalties levied on airlines and travel websites that don’t advertise total costs up front — up to $55,000 per day, which is double the current amount of $27,500.

“These tougher penalties will make unscrupulous ticket sellers think twice before they try to pull a fast one on their customers — and pay heavily if they do so,” said Sen. Menendez.

The travel industry expressed support for Menendez’s legislation. “I’m encouraged that members of both chambers continue to work on the airfare transparency issue, because so far there hasn’t been consensus on what ‘transparency’ truly means,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “Travelers are clear that the full price of airline tickets is one of their top concerns when deciding whether and how to travel. If airline ticket sellers want to be able to show travelers all of the taxes and fees associated with the ticket price, there’s nothing stopping them from doing that right now. But by no means should we undo the existing rule that enables consumers to see the full bottom-line price when they’re ticket shopping. They should have all of the information at their disposal.”

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