Despite repeated requests by consumer groups and others, bill does not require airlines to provide cooperation necessary for any positive impact on consumers
WASHINGTON – JULY 10, 2018 – The Air Travel Fairness Coalition, an alliance representing 70,000 individual travelers, as well as consumer and business groups, said today that a slightly revised version of legislation announced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) remains unworkable, and will only add to the confusion, false expectations and frustration that air travelers already experience in abundance today.
“We are disappointed that after months of discussions, the bill still requires providers of independent travel information to give consumers something the airlines will simply not allow them to provide,” said Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director of Air Travel Fairness. “If this bill was truly about consumer protection, it would require that airlines cooperate – which they have never been willing to do – so that independent travel agents could actually deliver the bill’s promised benefits to the flying public. Without it, they cannot.”
The legislation, announced this morning, directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue rules that would establish consumer protections for travelers purchasing tickets through independent, online ticket agents. Unfortunately, the bill continues to demonstrate a lack of understanding of how online travel operates, and as a result, is unworkable.
The revised legislation is not measurably different than Sen. Klobuchar’s controversial provision in pending Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation that requires independent travel companies to provide information that they do not have and are blocked from accessing by airlines. This is particularly true of “metasearch” websites that do not sell
tickets, but instead provide consumers with valuable side-by-side comparisons of the different airlines, fares and schedules available to their destination.
The original provision was supported as written only by the airline industry, and opposed by the USA Today editorial board and a number of stakeholder groups.
“What’s left is a tool to help the airlines achieve one of their long-held goals – to reduce competition by blocking easy, side-by-side comparison shopping, which enables competition that puts downward pressure on fares and upward pressure on service,” Ebenhoch added.
The bill relies upon DOT – the regulator with exclusive jurisdiction over and close ties to the airline industry – to issue a rulemaking to “ensure a consistent level of consumer protection.”
“Despite the pleas made by many different concerned consumer, business and expert groups on this issue during the past several weeks, there is still not a single word in this brief, 370-word bill that requires the airlines to share the fare, schedule and other information necessary for the online travel industry to be able to comply.”
“Without that vitally important language, what’s left is nothing more than an airline effort to clear the way to raise airfares for travelers across Minnesota and the rest of the U.S.”
The traveling public is once again being asked to rely upon DOT to put its needs over the special interests of the powerful U.S. airline industry, where the four largest carriers – American, Delta, Southwest and United – now control more than 80 percent of the U.S. market. In Minneapolis/St. Paul, the largest airline market in Sen. Klobuchar’s home state, the four airlines control 87 percent of the market, and Delta controls nearly 71 percent of airline seats.
About the Air Travel Fairness Coalition
Air Travel Fairness, made up of more than 70,000 travelers, as well as consumer and business organizations, believes genuine airfare transparency and easy comparison shopping is good for American families, good for business, good for the economy and good for competition. Air Travel Fairness has been endorsed by the American Society of Travel Agents, the Business Travel Coalition and the Travel Technology Association. For more information, visit www.airtravelfairness.org.
Executive Director, Air Travel Fairness Coalition
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