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Biden administration wants airlines to disclose all fees upfront

Sept. 26, 2022
3 min read
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Biden administration wants airlines to disclose all fees upfront
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This story has been updated with new information.

After hinting for months that airlines could soon face more regulations in the name of consumer protection, the White House is proposing new rules that would require airlines to be more transparent about add-on fees.

Under the proposed new rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), airlines and third-party travel sites that sell airfare would be required to immediately disclose fees related to changing or canceling a flight, choosing a seat (which affects a family’s ability to sit together) and for checked or carry-on bags, the Biden administration revealed Monday. The idea is that the first time you see an airfare listed, you'd also know exactly what other fees you might face on your flight.

President Joe Biden formally announced the plans at a meeting of the White House Competition Council late Monday afternoon.

“You should know the full cost of your ticket right when you’re comparison shopping," Biden said, “so you can pick the ticket that is actually the best deal for you.”

The administration is targeting the extra fees passengers might encounter beyond a flight's base fare. As passengers know all too well, the ticket price is often just one portion of the cost of a flight, with some airlines and classes of service including extra fees if passengers want to check a bag, bring a full-sized carry-on bag on board or select a seat.

Calling these a la carte-style services "surprise fees," the DOT argued the extra charges can quickly add up, spiking the total cost of the flight. The proposed rules would require airlines and third-party sellers to disclose any such fees up front, “the first time an airfare is displayed," the department said.

“Airline passengers deserve to know the full, true cost of their flights before they buy a ticket,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a written statement announcing the proposed regulation. “This new proposed rule would require airlines to be transparent with customers about the fees they charge.”

The new proposed rule would apply to both U.S. and foreign carriers, on flights to, from or within the U.S.

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The announcement comes just weeks after the DOT unveiled a new dashboard for airline passengers, which lists passenger rights to protections like rebooking and reimbursement for hotels, meals and ground transportation in the event of cancellations or significant delays within the airline’s control.

Biden administration officials have also been outspoken about their intent to place additional regulations on airlines, including those surrounding families being able to sit together on flights.

Meanwhile, a trade group for the largest U.S. airlines argued carriers already spell out all fees associated with a flight on their websites.

"U.S. airlines are committed to providing the highest quality of service, which includes clarity regarding prices, fees and ticket terms," Airlines for America said in a statement to TPG following the DOT's announcement Monday.

Travelers will have 60 days to weigh in on the proposed rule from the time it's filed in the Federal Register, at a time when the DOT already is gathering feedback on other potential regulations, including one set of proposed rules surrounding passenger refunds.

Featured image by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy
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