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A bill has been proposed on Capitol Hill that would no longer require airlines to include all taxes and fees as part of the sticker price on airfare. Why? Because it’s not “fair”, the airlines say.

Back in 2012 a DOT rule went into effect that decimated airlines’ ability to play bait-and-switch with consumers shopping for airfares. Airlines could no longer lure people in with extremely low fares, only to add huge amounts of taxes and fees before checkout. This bill would begin to undo this regulation, allowing airlines to advertise fares without said taxes.

Another layer of confusion

This bill only ends badly for consumers. With all the additional fees on many carriers these days, finding the cheapest airfare for any given situation already requires some effort. For example, if I’m flying Norwegian with a checked bag, I have to take the bag cost into consideration when comparing fares to compare adequately to say, Delta.

If taxes and fees are no longer included as part of the baseline sticker price for airfare, things will be 10 times more complicated. We could begin to see advertisements offering $100 airfares to Europe, but not before a carrier tacks on $400 more in taxes and fees.

But….it’s not fair!

Airlines have long argued that other industries don’t have to include taxes when advertising their products. While I can see that point, there is also no other industry that offers such a multitude of options for consumers to wade through. When was the last time you had to consider 15 options from the same provider for the same service?

But let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment. It really depends on how this is rolled out. If taxes can be calculated from a fairly static percentage, then this may not be that bad of a change. The fact is, when I am comparing hotel costs, I mentally take note that the cost of a stay will be generally 10% more than the advertised price. I also know that this percentage isn’t going to change in a given locale (but I still watch out for resort fees). If hotels operate this way, why can’t airlines?

My worry is airlines will begin to *really* play games with consumers. While Norwegian may be advertising a $300 fare between Oakland and London, Delta could to the same. But then “forget” to tack on another $300 in taxes and fuel surcharges. If airlines can play games with fuel surcharges, this bill will make things really, really ugly.

Conclusion

I hope this bill fails. All it will do is cause headache for millions of people trying to find a deal on airfare. Transparency is the best policy, which is something the airlines are generally poor at. The current DOT regulations need to remain in place.

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