Thursday, September 23, 2010

Travel group gains support for airline fee rule

A group of travel executives said it has stirred up plenty of support for a government rule that would require airlines to display extra fees prominently on their websites and in travel reservation systems.

The Consumer Travel Alliance, Business Travel Coalition and American Society of Travel Agents on Thursday delivered a petition to the Transportation Department with 50,000 signatures from consumers who want airlines to spell out fees more clearly.

Thursday is the last day for public comment on proposed government rules to enhance passenger rights and make airline fares and fees more transparent.

In addition to requiring airlines to fully disclose baggage and other fees, the new rules call for refunds of fees and reimbursement for expenses when bags are lost or not delivered on time. Airlines would also have to give notice when baggage fees are increased, and notify passengers buying tickets whether they must pay to check up to two bags.

The travel industry effort to support government rule changes, called "Mad as Hell about Hidden Fees," began two weeks ago. It claims that fees can boost ticket price by 26 percent when one bag is checked and by 54 percent when a passenger checks two bags and chooses a seat with extra legroom.

The group wants all ticket outlets to have the same information on fares and fees for travelers. More than half of all airline tickets are sold by third parties, such as travel agents and websites like Expedia or Orbitz.

"Airlines should be able make a fair profit and set fares and fees that allow them to do so, as long as travelers can see and compare all of those fees in advance," said Paul Ruden of the American Society of Travel Agents.

The Transportation Department said Monday that U.S. airlines in the second quarter made $893 million on baggage fees, $594 million from reservation change fees and $618 million from charges for things like frequent-flier sales and transporting pets.

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