Update on Transparent Airfares Act and Why You Probably Don't have to Worry

On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Transparent Airfares Act which would undo some of the passenger protections put into place by the Department of Transportation just two years ago. Or as one media report put it, this bill is “one step closer to misleading passengers.” But it’s not the law yet and may never be.

What is the Transparent Airfares Act

The Transparent Airfares Act would allow airlines and others such as online travel agencies to go back to advertising base fares, which don’t include various government-mandated taxes and fees such as the cost of security.

These mandated fees would, however, appear at the end of the shopping transaction, so shoppers would be able to see government charges vs. airline charges – along with the total price.

Surprise: Worlds’s best airlines are not in the U.S.

What this means for shoppers is they might see an airfare that looks like a great bargain, only to learn at the end of the transaction it’s not such a deal after all. Consumer groups are unhappy; they say the bill is anything but transparent because costs are hidden. Airfare analyst Rick Seaney believes shoppers deserve to know the price they’ll pay right from the start but as NPR reports, one of the bill’s co-sponsors believes shoppers are smart enough to figure this out. They quote Oregon Sen. Peter DeFazio saying, “What do they think, Americans are idiots?”

Analysis: What Happens Next

The bill must still get through the senate and this is by no means certain; as Time reports, its opponents “aren’t going to give up without a fight.” They may have an ally in yet another airfare bill.

Next: Another Transparency Bill

This one’s called The Real Transparency in Airfares Act and it would keep the DOT guidelines in place while raising the fines for those who don’t post full fares – to $55,000 per day. We will update when Congress makes its next move.

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Published: July 29, 2014