The U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) invites public comment on a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) issuing several proposals aimed at improving the air travel environment of consumers in order to prohibit unfair or deceptive practices in air transportation. (49 U.S.C. 41712). The DOT seeks to reinforce the rights of air travelers when they purchase tickets from ticket agents, make sure that passengers have adequate information . . . to make informed decisions . . ., increase notice to consumers of ancillary service fees, and prohibit unfair and deceptive practices, (e.g. post-purchase price increases, . . .or undisclosed biasing in fare and schedule displays).
Under the Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections final rule (“EAPP”), (76 FR 23110 (April 25, 2011)), the DOT promulgated passenger protections, but did not require airlines to provide their fee information for ancillary services to Global Distribution Systems (“GDSs”), because the DOT needed to learn more about the complexities of the issue. This NPRM addresses issues identified in the second EAPP. The DOT proposes to enhance airline passenger protections by: expanding the pool of “reporting” carriers; requiring enhanced reporting by mainline carriers for their domestic code-share partner operations; requiring large travel agents to adopt minimum customer service standards; codifying the statutory requirement that carriers and ticket agents disclose any airline code-share arrangements on their Web sites; prohibiting unfair and deceptive practices such as undisclosed biasing in schedule and fare displays and post-purchase price increases; and requiring ticket agents to disclose the carriers whose tickets they sell in order to avoid having consumers mistakenly believe they are searching all possible flight options for a particular city-pair market when in fact there may be other options available.
The DOT invites the public to comment on the following questions regarding Airline Fees:
- Do you have a problem finding fee information? If yes, how significant is that problem? How does it affect your ability to comparison shop?
- What types of fees would you most like to have more information about during the shopping process, prior to purchase?
- When would you like to see that information displayed in your search process? As soon as you see a list of fares? Or, later in the process?
- How would you like to see the information regarding ancillary fees displayed? As a link, as a specific dollar amount shown with the airfare quote? As a table or menu on the homepage? Or, flight search results list?
- Should the DOT require large ticket agents to maintain and display lists of carriers whose tickets they market and sell?
- Should the DOT require a standardized format for disclosure?
- Do you feel that our proposed disclosure requirements would improve your search experience?
- Has the DOT selected the ancillary fees that are most important to your decision making process? Will disclosure of all these fees at the point of search cause further confusion on ticket agent Web sites? Or, diminish your user experience (e.g. because of screen clutter, diminished usability features, etc.)?
- Would the DOT proposals make fees easy to find?
Interested parties are invited to submit comments (identified by the docket number DOT-OST-2014-0056) by August 21, 2014 by any of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for submitting comments;
- Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001;
- Hand Delivery or Courier: The Docket Management Facility is located on the West Building, Ground Floor, of the U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., Room W12-140, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays; OR
- Fax: 202-493-2251.
This post was originally published on the legacy ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Notice and Comment blog, which merged with the Yale Journal on Regulation Notice and Comment blog in 2015.