Economist Business Travel blog: Airline fee disclosure – We’re not going to tell you how much this will cost

The Economist’s Gulliver business travel blog has an excellent post highlighting how U.S. airlines are making it difficult for consumers to understand the full cost of their travel due to the airlines’ refusal to share fee information with online travel sites and travel agents:

Airlines don’t want you to know how much your ticket will really end up costing. For over two years, American carriers have been battling Barack Obama’s Department of Transportation (DOT), which is considering requiring airlines to disclose fee information to travel agent distribution systems and online ticketing agents like Orbitz. Some airlines previously sued the Obama administration over a rule requiring they disclose taxes as part of the cost of their flights, but they might hate the fee proposal even more . . .

Add-on and personally tailored services are well and good, but people should know how much they will be charged for them. And meanwhile, back on (or, if you will, above) Planet Earth, the shift in the airline industry over the past four decades has been towards more price sensitivity, not less. Most people who fly want to get from Point A to Point B as quickly and cheaply as possible, and airlines have proven that most flyers are willing to give up comfort for price. They may not like the brave new world of commoditised airline travel, but they’re living in it. It’s hard to see why consumer- and business-travel groups (which almost unanimously oppose the airlines on this) should have to kowtow to the airlines’ dream of a return to less price-sensitive air travel and less comparison shopping . . .

It should be non-controversial that companies competing in a free market should not attempt to deceive consumers about what their products and services actually cost.

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