Anyone who has purchased airplane tickets has likely gone through the shock of thinking they’ll pay one price and seeing another price at checkout. Usually, the culprit in the difference is government taxes and fees. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) thinks you should know these costs upfront, while — unsurprisingly — several airlines think you shouldn’t.<
In the fight over controlling sticker shock for airline customers, several airlines - including Southwest, Spirit and Allegiant - have asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out DOT regulations requiring them to include government taxes and fees in their advertised prices.
On the one hand, the airlines argue that the regulations hinder their free speech rights in deciding how they choose to advertise.
Just like a gallon of milk, airline tickets shouldn’t have to be advertised with their full out-of-pocket cost, the petitioners argue. Instead, “the full-fare advertising rule will have the effect of confusing customers and suppressing ticket sales,” Southwest said in its filing.
“Our main objection is that there is no justification for treating air travel differently from just about everything else that consumers purchase,” Chris Mainz, a spokesman for Southwest, told the Dallas Morning News. “Forcing airlines to include taxes will also make air travel look more expensive when in reality it’s not.”
The DOT, however, believes its regulations will provide clear and adequate disclosures to consumers, and “ensure that air travelers receive the respect they deserve before, during and after their flight,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Besides requiring fees and taxes to be included in the advertised price, the regulations also require airlines to charge checked-baggage fees at the time of purchase, and allow customers 24 hours to change their reservations without penalty.
The DOT’s regulations are scheduled to be implemented on Jan. 24, and the D.C. Circuit has already ruled that its implementation will not be delayed while the airlines go through the appeal process, according to USA Today.
Only time will tell how customers react to ticket prices under the new regulations and how their reaction will affect the airlines’ appeal.
- Spirit Airlines Appealing Certain Aspects of Recent Department of Transportation Rules (Spirit Airlines)
- Alaska Airlines, Inc. v Dep’t of Transp. (FindLaw’s D.C. Circuit blog)
- ‘Pretty Big Deal’: D.C. Circuit Stays EPA Rule (FindLaw’s D.C. Circuit blog)