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More Passenger Protections Could Be on the Way

You might remember when the Department of Transportation (DOT) enacted new airfare advertising rules early this year. The regulations, which went into effect in January, require airlines to include all mandatory government taxes and fees in advertised prices of plane tickets. So now, the price you see on airline websites or online travel agencies (OTAs) is the price you pay.

But are the DOT’s new advertising rules enough? According to a report on Travel Weekly, the consumer committee that advises the DOT has recommended further consumer protections. The committee wants OTAs to “disclose the fact that they do not offer for sale all airlines’ tickets, if that is the case, and that additional airlines may serve the route being searched.”

The committee, though, did not ask that ancillary charges—optional costs for extras like priority boarding and premium seats—be featured prominently during the booking process on OTAs to help consumers compare costs; the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) had previously recommend this.

So, in short, the consumer committee has come to the conclusion that the airfare booking process needs to be a little more transparent, but it doesn’t want to push the ancillary fee issue. It’s likely that many travelers buy tickets under the assumption that major booking agencies are comprehensive aggregators of fares when, in fact, none of them are. No single booking site sells all tickets from every airline. So it could be a good thing for flyers to see a helpful reminder that the best booking practice is to shop around.

For now, these are all simply recommendations filed with the DOT. So nothing will change as of yet. But if the DOT moves forward on the consumer committee’s advice, you could see new language appear on sites like Expedia and Priceline sometime in the future.

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