Which is Better: Ads Featuring Total Airline Ticket Prices or Base Fares?

Most of us probably thought the battle over how airfares could be advertised was settled four years ago when the U.S. Department of Transportation’s passenger protection regulations went into effect. Not so fast! A new battle looms in congress that could overturn those rules.

Ads and Airline Ticket Prices

The way it used to be: Airlines could advertise cheaper base fares, even though travelers paid more because of mandatory taxes and fees included in the total ticket price. This is how Spirit used to be able to advertise $9 fares that in reality cost much more, sometimes five or ten times as much as $9.

The 2012 changes: Then DOT regulations of January of 2012 required all advertised fares be total ticket prices, including all mandatory government fees, airport taxes and airline surcharges. However, fares did not have to show optional fees such as checked-baggage charges.

Current proposed changes: If an amendment to a Federal Aviation Administration funding measure goes into effect, airlines could once again quote base airfare prices without mandatory charges. Although The Hill reports it still has numerous hurdles to go through before passage, the changes (described in another publication as “a gift to airlines”) could still happen.

The rationale for the change: As far as we can determine, airlines dislike taking all the blame for airfare prices and want shoppers to understand how much government fees (for such things as security) add to the total. However, travelers can generally find this information if they look for it; on Delta’s website, for example, one need only click the phrase “total price” to see a cost-by-cost fare breakdown.

Which Do You Prefer

Would you prefer to see just the base fare in ads? Or the total price? We’d love to hear. By the way, FareCompare always shows the total price. Always has.


Published: February 15, 2016