Airlines now say new rule violates right to free speech

Later this month, a new U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) rule will require airlines to include all taxes and fees in their advertised fares and ban post-purchase price increases. The new rule also allows passengers to hold certain reservations without payment or to cancel them without penalty for 24 hours after booking. Travelers are happy about it. Airlines, not so much.

“The odd thing is this type of regulation does not apply to any other industry,” Steve Lott, a spokesman for Airlines for America, the industry’s largest trade group told NPR, pointing out that rental car agencies don’t have to disclose taxes and fees in their ads, nor do retailers who sell televisions.

The rule is a big win for air travelers, often caught off-guard by advertised pricing that is not the final price they will pay. After the rule goes into effect, travelers will have a total price at the time of booking that they can count on, with no extra fees or charges added on later.

Airlines don’t like that idea at all and contend that the rule is an attempt by the government to re-regulate them and violates their right to free speech.

Southwest, Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines have filed suit in federal court contesting the rules.

Tied up in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, several airline industry organizations, including Airlines for America, filed a join request to postpone the rules.

“Critical sources of information needed to comply with these rules do not yet exist” says Lott, calling for more time.

“This extension would give carriers essential time to overcome fundamental changes in baggage rules that require substantial investment and re-engineering of carrier reservations, check-in and baggage information systems, in addition to retraining of airline employees” Lott was quoted as saying in the Chicago Tribune.

Another rule starting this month will allow passengers who book at least a week in advance to cancel a reservation within 24 hours with no penalty. Airlines don’t care for that rule either.

Clamping down even harder on airlines, other rules require additional disclosures concerning baggage fees, more timely notification when flights are delayed or canceled, and prohibit price increases after the tickets are purchased.

When Gadling first reported this story last June, airlines said they needed another 6 months or so to “overcome substantial technological problems and properly train their employees,” according to a document submitted June 7 by the Air Transport Association of America, the Regional Airline Association and the Air Carrier Association of America.

All the new rules are set to be in place by January 26.

Meanwhile, check Gadling’s advice on how to minimize baggage fees and find cheaper plane tickets.

Flickr photo by UggBoy