Gov. Takes Another Stab at Transparent Airline Fees


Gadling’s graph of airline fees.

Tired of seeing that $97 flight marked up to $165 after your travel website finally calculates all the taxes and fees associated with airline travel? Me too. The government is also tired of this deceptive pricing, which has become common in the travel industry. Bloomberg has more:

Airlines don’t include the fees in the route and fare data they provide to travel agents, who sell 60 percent of all tickets, either online or through independent or corporate travel services, the Government Accountability Office said today in the report.

Carriers have been adding charges, such as fees for baggage and reservation changes, to boost revenue beyond airfares. The GAO’s finding may bolster prospects that Congress or Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will force airlines to make the data more widely available.

Airlines collected $7.8 billion in fees last year, up from $5.5 billion in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The figures don’t include consumer expenditures for food, drinks and pillows. The GAO’s finding may bolster prospects that Congress or Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will force airlines to make the data widely available.

$7.8 billion in fees last year.

Over the years, the Department of Justice and international authorities have been after airlines for their fees, most recently for price-fixing baggage fees. The government hasn’t gotten very far, thanks in part to the millions of dollars airlines spend lobbying politicians every quarter.

If the government succeeds in getting airlines to disclose all their fees, however, it may signal a move towards regulation of the industry, which hasn’t happened since the late 1970s. Wannabe monopolists like UAL CEO Glenn Tilton would not take that lying down. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

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