The truth about the government’s new “full fare” disclosure rule

Editor’s note: This is part seven in a series about the Transportation Department’s sweeping new airline passenger protection rules. You can read the entire document here (.DOC). Please take a moment to comment on these proposed rules at The future of air travel depends on it.

When you get a fare quote from an airline or online agency, you should expect to pay that price. Right?


It’s not that the travel industry lies — although it often does — but that quoting a less-than-inclusive ticket price has so many advantages.

For starters, the government doesn’t make you do it. It’s also easier to quote an “unbundled” fare. Plus, it makes you more money ($7.8 billion in airline fees last year, most of it tax-free).

All that could change if the Transportation Department has its way.

I’ve already written about Section 7 of the rulemaking because it’s so important. So have airline critic Joe Brancatelli and travel expert Pauline Frommer. So has my colleague Charlie Leocha.

I spoke with Leocha, who is lobbying for sensible airfare transparency laws, and he said there’s a disconnect between the proposed government rules and pending legislation. More on that in a minute.

First, though, let’s look into what the government presently requires of airlines.

Existing regulations say advertising of air travel prices has to include all fees, surcharges, and taxes. But the Department of Transportation has a long-standing enforcement policy that allows air carriers and other sellers of air transportation to break out from the advertised price any airport or government fees that are charged on a fixed or per-segment basis.

Earlier this year, as part of its regulatory analysis (PDF), researchers conducted a review of the prices advertised on the sites of five mainline carriers, three low-cost carriers, and the four largest online travel agencies.

Of the eight carrier sites, only Delta’s displayed the full-fare prices along with the pre-tax prices at the flight selection stage. All eight carrier websites displayed the additional fees at the flight booking stage. Full-fare prices were displayed for each available option at the flight selection stage on all four OTA sites, along with prices that did not include the additional taxes and fees, according to the analysis.

(The full-fare prices were shown more prominently on the Expedia and Orbitz flight selection pages than on those for Priceline and Travelocity.)

What’s the problem?

Inexperienced travelers may find themselves purchasing tickets at prices that are higher than those for other alternatives they reviewed once the charges for all mandatory fees and taxes are included. They may also unwittingly purchase optional services at prices that exceed what they would be willing to pay for these additions.

That doesn’t work for the government.

We believe consumers would be better served if we enforce our existing full-price rule as written and prohibit the practice of advertising fares that exclude any mandatory fees or surcharges, regardless of the source.

I don’t think you’ll find anyone who disagrees with that.

For more on the specifics, you can check out my original post.

But there’s more.

The government is considering adding two new paragraphs to the price advertising rule. The first would codify the Transportation Department’s current enforcement policy on each-way airfare advertising. Currently, it allows sellers of air transportation to advertise an each-way price that is contingent on a roundtrip ticket purchase, so long as the roundtrip purchase requirement is clearly and conspicuously disclosed in a location that is prominent and proximate to the advertised fare amount.

That would essentially stop airlines from referring to such fares as “one-way” fares, which they are not.

The second provision would prohibit so-called “opt-out” provisions in price advertising. According to the government, there’s been a trend to add fees for ancillary services and products to the total price of air transportation, which charges consumer are deemed to have accepted unless they affirmatively opt out of the service and related charges.

For example, carriers may allow a consumer to select a preferred seat or receive priority boarding status if he or she pays a predetermined fee. In some cases the optional services and accompanying charges for those services is pre-selected and added to the total fare without the consumer affirmatively choosing those optional services or fees.

This often is accomplished on a website through use of a small box that is pre-checked and must be “unchecked” by a consumer in order to avoid the charge. This can be deceptive depending on the layout of the webpage and instructions accompanying the service and charge.

That’s something I’ve noticed, too.

Now, regarding the possible disconnect between the rulemaking and pending legislation. If the Menendez amendment, which I’ve already written about here, passes in its curent version, it could reverse some of these positive changes.

The Menendez legislation has to be brought into tune with the new rules. Otherwise, airlines and online agencies will be able to wait until the last booking screen to quote a full price, according to Leocha. And that’s unacceptable.

Section 6 is by far the most interesting part of the new airline rules, if not the most controversial. How all of this turns out should be of concern to anyone who travels.

The Rulemaking Series

I’ve written this series of posts in order to help you understand the Transportation Department’s proposed rules and offer the most informed feedback during its commenting period. Please take a moment to read them and then tell the government what you think at

Part 1: New tarmac delay contingency plans — what’s in it for you?

Part 2: Government will require airlines to offer “complete picture” of ground delays

Part 3: New rules would require airlines to meet “minimum” customer service standards

Part 4: Government to airlines: Put it in the contract!

Part 5: New requirements would force international airlines to monitor and respond to passenger complaints

Part 6: Everything you need to know about the new denied boarding compensation rules

Part 7: The truth about the government’s new “full fare” disclosure rule

Part 8: Transportation Department wants airlines to reveal all fees and an airfare — or two

Part 9: New rule: No more price increases after you buy a ticket

Part 10: Airlines must “promptly” notify passengers of flight delays under proposed rule

Part 11: No more lawsuit limits for passengers under proposed government rules

Part 12: The hard facts about the peanuts-on-a-plane rule everyone’s talking about

If you have any feedback on this series, please send me an email. And thanks for reading.

(Photo: western dave/Flickr Creative Commons)

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend