Groups Claim 50,000 Petitions Delivered On "Mad As Hell
The Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), Business Travel Coalition
(BTC) and American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) said in a news
release Thursday that they have submitted signatures from more than
50,000 travelers on a petition urging the U.S. DOT to require
airlines to share all of their ancillary fees through every booking
channel in which they participate.
"Only two weeks ago, we asked travelers to tell us how they felt
about hidden airline fees, and we opened a floodgate," said Kevin
Mitchell, Chairman of the Business Travel Coalition. "Consumers are
clearly mad as hell about fees they can't see, can't compare, and
can't predict. There is no excuse for hiding fees from travelers,
and we're pleased that the Department of Transportation is poised
to take action to protect consumers in this area."
In the last two weeks alone, more than 50,000 travelers have
reportedly visited madashellabouthiddenfees.com and signed a
petition urging the DOT to "require airlines to make their fees
fully and easily accessible to both consumers and intermediaries in
the travel industry."
"This issue is not about fees, but about fairness," said Paul
Ruden, Senior Vice President of Legal and Industry Affairs for the
American Society of Travel Agents. "Although more than half of all
airline tickets are booked through traditional or online travel
agencies, the airlines have chosen to hide their fees from the
systems that power those bookings. Airlines should be able make a
fair profit and set fares and fees that allow them to do so, as
long as travelers can see and compare all of those fees in
Members of the coalition have also undertaken a range of other
activities to focus public and media attention on this issue,
- Organizing a meeting with Secretary LaHood at which consumer
and travel organizations shared a letter from representatives of
300+ consumer groups urging him to make airline fees accessible to
- Presenting another letter urging swift action to the Secretary
signed by 300 of the largest travel management companies and
corporations, including McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Merck, BASF,
Goodrich, Ingersoll Rand, GlaxoSmithKline and Campbell Soup.
- Releasing the results of an online survey showing that
two-thirds of travelers have been surprised by extra fees after
arrival at the airport.
- Exposing the airlines' false claims that their fees are all
available on their websites by filming the seven websites, 47
pages, and 11,000 words a typical traveler would need to examine to
find the only widely accessible fees, those for baggage.
- Releasing an analysis showing that hidden fees can increase the
base cost of airfare for a typical two-bag traveler requiring extra
legroom by an average of 54%, or by an average of 26% for an
equivalent one-bag traveler.
- Sharing a survey of business travel managers in which 100% said
they felt that airlines should be required to disclose their fees
through all existing channels they use.
"No other merchant would expect a consumer to buy their product
first, and then find out afterward how much it cost, but that's
exactly what the airlines do," said Charlie Leocha, President of
the Consumer Travel Alliance. "Consumers deserve to see all of the
costs upfront and in advance, so they can compare their flights on
an apples-to-apples basis against one another. With Secretary
LaHood's help, we hope this will be the last year we need to
'celebrate' this unfortunate day for travelers."
The Air Transport Association of America (ATA) also submitted
detailed comments to the DOT on proposed passenger protection rule
supporting greater transparency for airline customers Thursday.
"We share the goal of making information easily available to
consumers before they purchase a ticket. ATA members have been long
committed to that principle, which is why in our comments we
support the use of a hyperlink to disclose optional fees
immediately and clearly," said ATA President and CEO James C. May.
"We find much in the DOT proposals that we can support or that with
additional work could be feasible."
But May said that, while there were good ideas in the rule, ATA
was not giving unqualified support. "Some of the Department's
proposals, unfortunately, will not benefit the consumer or exceed
its statutory authority," He continued. "Most importantly, though,
we are firmly committed to improving consumer access to information
needed to make an informed decision about air travel."