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February 19, 2016

BTC Weighs In Against Transparent Airfares Act

U.S. Representative Curbelo (R-Fla.) has introduced an amendment to H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 aimed at bringing back the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, according to a statement by the Business Travel Coalition (BTC). The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee accepted the amendment last week. 

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Photo by Freeimages.com/Craig Toocheck

The BTC, American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and other consumer groups have sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee members urging them to reject the amendment, which would reverse the 2011 Department of Transportation (DOT) Full Fare Advertising Rule that mandates airlines advertise tickets at the price that the consumer will pay, inclusive of all taxes and fees, including those imposed by the government. 

In the letter the BTC, ASTA and other consumer groups argue that reversing the DOT rule would harm consumers by making it more difficult to comparison shop between airlines, as it would be harder for consumers to compare the all-in cost of a ticket. The letter also pointed out that federal excise taxes are commonly included in advertised prices for gas, tobacco and alcohol. 

AirlinePassnegers.org, the Consumer Federation of America, Ed Perkins, Consumer Advocate, the National Consumers League, Travelers United and U.S. PIRG also signed off on the letter. 

Seat Size Rule

The return of the Transparent Airfares Act is not the only controversial provision in the FAA reauthorization bill. According to an opinion piece by Christopher Elliott in the Washington Post, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) also proposed an amendment, the Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act, that would have set minimums for seat size and distance between rows. Cohen said that regulating seat size, which has dropped from 35 inches to approximately 31 inches since the 1970s, would protect passenger safety and health. Jean Medina, a spokesperson for Airlines for America (A4A), argued that market forces should determine seat size. The amendment failed in committee. 

According to USA Today, the bill also contained a proposal to require the Secretary of Transportation to pass a rule requiring airlines to refund baggage fees if passengers don't get their luggage delivered within 24 hours of their flight's arrival time. Under current rules, airlines only have to refund these fees if the bag is lost entirely. 

The bill also contained a proposal called the Stop Online Booking Scams Act, which USA Today said would require third-party hotel booking websites to say that they are not affiliated with the hotel for which a consumer is making a reservation. 

Keep visiting www.internationalmeetingsreview.com for further updates on this developing story. 

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