The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced today that it will not change its current rule and enforcement policy on airline price advertising. The decision follows a review of comments filed in response to a notice issued last December regarding possible changes.
The DOT concluded that the current practice protects consumers and helps them compare prices. It also found that the current rule promotes fare competition and provides sellers of air transportation with freedom to innovate. Supporters of other options did not provide compelling reasons for eliminating the rule that has been in place for 21 years, DOT said, noting that the vast majority of people filing comment opposed any relaxation of the rule's provisions.
The current rule requires that the advertised price for air transportation list the entire amount a customer will have to pay for the ticket. DOT has a long-standing enforcement policy that allows carriers to list only government-imposed taxes, fees and other charges separately from the listed fare, and only as long as these charges are collected on a per-passenger basis, are not based on a percentage of the ticket price, and are clearly disclosed in the advertisement.
On Dec. 14, 2005, the department asked for public comment on a range of options for rules on airline price advertising. The department's proposal followed the rejection of a request by the Air Transport Association of America that airlines be allowed to list fuel surcharges separately from the advertised fare, which neither the current rule nor the enforcement policy allows.
The notice outlined four options the DOT would consider: (1) maintain the current practice, with or without revising the rule to codify the current enforcement policy; (2) strictly enforce the rule as written, ending the long-standing exception for government taxes and fees; (3) eliminate most requirements for airfare ads, but require airlines to tell passengers the full price to be paid before they buy a ticket; and (4) eliminate the fare-advertising rule altogether.
To download the final decision, click here (1 MB pdf).
Today's notice, the December proposal and public comments are available on the Internet at http://dms.dot.gov, docket OST-2005-23194.