Christmas came early for the airlines.
The Obama era proposal would have required airlines to disclose the baggage fees – first and second checked bag, and carry-on bag – on the first webpage the base fare/itinerary is advertised, right next to the fare.
Part of the DOT’s reasoning for proposing the rule in the first place was that airfare has historically included these bag fees.
And we know, as carriers shift the price from the base fare to optional services, they make it appear as if airfares are decreasing. They also avoid the ticket tax on these ancillary fees. (photo: John Amis AP)
Last week, the Department of Transportation (DOT) abolished an Obama-era proposal that required carriers to disclose baggage fees.
The reversal is a gift for the airlines’ bottom line and a slap in the face for flyers who deserve transparency when buying a ticket.
Soon, when you buy through a third-party site or the airline directly, it’s unlikely you will see any bag fees added onto the price of a ticket until after purchase.
Drip, drip, drip: Is fee transparency draining away?
The DOT will also abandon a plan requiring airlines to report how much revenue they make from charging ancillary fees – such as money collected from extra-legroom and checked bags, reports The Hill.
The airlines are still required to show fees on their websites, although the concern is that less regulation will encourage airlines to charge higher prices for ancillary fees with no consequence.
The DOT’s reversal comes just after Delta Air Lines announced
plans to charge $60
for checked bags on its flights to Europe.
That’s right, for one bag, the fee is $60. Those days of a free checked bag on flights to Europe are coming to an end.
To take this to the extreme, the airlines could price flights at $0 – and just charge hundreds of dollars for checked luggage, with no prior disclosure of the bag fees.
Most airlines also charge additional fees for bags over 62″ and an extra set of fees for bags weighing 50-70 lbs and for 70-100 lbs, plus much higher fees for a second or third checked bag.
An increasing number of airlines impose fees or ridiculous size restrictions for carryon bags. The bottom line is that gotcha fees and the failure to carefully research bag fees can result in big charges as high or higher than the airfare.
Also note that some countries, for example, in Latin America have outlawed most baggage fees, unlike the USA.
Consumer plays “The Price is Right” guessing game, because they cannot comparison shop:
Hypothetical R/T airfare comparison from NY to CA TODAY:
- Airline A: $245 Flight + $65 baggage fee
- Airline B: $255 Flight + $55 baggage fee
- Airline C: $250 Flight + $60 baggage fee
- Airline D: $290 Flight + $0 baggage fee
Viewing the above, the cheapest flight + baggage fee is Airline D. The consumer can choose wisely.
Hypothetical airfare comparison from NY to CA – WITH UNDISCLOSED BAGGAGE FEE:
- Airline A: $100 Flight + Undisclosed $250 baggage fee
- Airline B: $150 Flight + Undisclosed $180 baggage fee
- Airline C: $250 Flight + Undisclosed $60 baggage fee
- Airline D: $200 Flight + Undisclosed $150 baggage fee
Which one do you pick above? Which is the best deal for the flight + baggage? YOU DO NOT KNOW. This is deceptive advertising.
Not making air travel great again
Back in 2014, regulatory reform began because many airlines refused to disclose their fees and even airfares in a timely way to online travel sites like Orbitz or Kayak.
Airlines now make much higher profits from baggage, change fees and other ancillary fees than from their actual airfares.
DOT said that “we are withdrawing this rulemaking in light of the comments we received” and that the withdrawal “corresponds with the Department’s and Administration’s priorities,” and is consistent with a Jan. 30 executive order signed by President Trump to reduce regulations and control regulatory costs.
FlyersRights.org released a statement:
“This is NOT how you make air travel great again. Airlines are already exempt from all state and local consumer protection, much of antitrust law, most other federal regulations and tort law. The DOT is their sole regulator.”
Ending rules that would ensure airlines are open and honest about bag fees and other charges is as anti-consumer as it gets.