Consumer groups try to revive Clear Airfare Amendment with “crucial” fix

When we last checked on Sen. Robert Menendez Clear Airfare Amendment, it was roadkill. The Air Transport Association had apparently gutted the legislation in plain view, leaving consumer groups to watch in stunned silence.

But it looks like the proposed law’s wounds were not mortal, after all. The Consumer Federation of America and the Consumer Travel Alliance, in consultation with several industry groups, have breathed new life into the legislation.

This just arrived in my “in” box:

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Senator Jay Rockefeller
Chairman, Commerce Committee
United States Senate
254 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Rockefeller:

We write to support full and timely disclosure to consumers about fees and taxes for services ancillary to air travel. That would be accomplished in language proposed to amend an amendment by Senators Menendez, Schumer and others, incorporated into the FAA Reauthorization bill recently approved by the Senate.

The proposed language would ensure that airlines, as well as their ticket agents, will be able to provide complete information to consumers, as required by the amendment.

Both the Consumer Federation of America and the Consumer Travel Alliance strongly supported the Menendez amendment when it was proposed and prior to its inclusion in the manager’s amendment to the FAA Reauthorization bill.

The change that our organizations are supporting follows:

Delete the period at the end of (b)(d)(1)(B) and insert a semicolon followed by “and.” Then, insert a new (b)(d)(1)(C):

(C) In the case of an air carrier or foreign air carrier, shall transmit complete information on all taxes and fees, as described in paragraph (2), at the same time and in the same manner it transmits fare information to all ticket agents, computer reservation systems and airline tariff publishing agencies used or participated in by that air carrier or foreign air carrier.

The obvious intent of the original Menendez amendment was to provide consumers clear overall airline transportation costs. The current wording mandates that a “ticket agent” as well as the air carrier notify passengers of such fees. Therefore, requiring airlines to transmit to agents and to the intermediaries on which agents rely all fee information as promptly and in the same manner that the airlines post new fares is both a logical and necessary adjunct to the current terms in the bill.

The proposed language will allow ticket agents to comply with the letter of the proposed law and allow consumers to have access to the fastest growing segment of the cost of airline travel (the ancillary fees) as well as the basic airfare. Using complete and timely information on fees and taxes provided by the air carriers and their ticket agents will allow consumers to make informed decisions and avoid unpleasant surprises when they purchase air travel. The language change we support is crucial to ensuring that consumers get this information.

Sincerely,

Susan Grant
CFA Director of Consumer Protection

Charlie Leocha
Director, Consumer Travel Alliance

Let us hope Sen. Rockefeller has the courage to make the right decision on this amendment. It is difficult to understate the benefits of this to air travelers across the country.

(Photo: Rob Crawley/Flickr Creative Commons)

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