Travel Fairness Now welcomes letter from five U.S. Senators urging DOT to demand transparency from airlines restricting consumer access to fare and schedule information
WASHINGTON – SEPT. 23, 2019 – Several consumer and business groups today applauded U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for their leadership in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to take immediate action to protect consumers from airline efforts to restrict consumer access to public airfare and airline schedule information.
“We continue to have concerns about potentially anticompetitive and anti-consumer behavior among airlines that may be suppressing consumer ability to make informed flight decisions,” said the five U.S. Senators in their letter. “The traveling public depends on third-party price comparison sites to make apples-to-apples comparisons among fares and flights and to select the best price, schedule, and airport from all available options. Unfortunately, some airlines appear to be taking steps to restrict consumer access to fare and schedule information on such sites.”
In response to growing concerns over airline actions to make it increasingly difficult for travelers to conduct easy, side-by-side comparisons of airlines, schedules and prices, DOT launched a “request for information,” (RFI) in Oct. 2016 on industry practices on distribution and display of airline fare, schedule, and availability information. The airline industry obtained two extensions to answer the questions in the RFI, and in March 2017, the RFI was suspended by DOT after 60,000 consumers had submitted comments in support of transparency.
In their letter to Secretary Chao, the senators called for the resumption of the RFI, saying: “Over two years later, the RFI remains suspended, and DOT has not taken meaningful action to study, let alone correct the airline industry’s attempts to stifle marketplace competition and consumers’ ability to price shop. Accordingly, we strongly urge the Department of Transportation to lift the RFI suspension and continue exploring industry practices on distribution and display of airline fare, schedule, and availability information. We also urge the DOT to use its existing statutory authority to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive practices, or unfair methods of competition upon conclusion of this proceeding.”
CONSUMER AND BUSINESS GROUPS PRAISE SENATORS’ LETTER
In a letter to Secretary Chao supporting the five Senators’ letter, Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org, said: “I write in support of the request by five Senators of August 30th, 2019 that you unfreeze this (RFI) proceeding to allow the Department to gain information and insight into the myriad ways that airlines are increasingly making it difficult to impossible for passengers to price shop or otherwise compare air travel options.”
Business Travel Coalition
Business Travel Coalition founder Kevin Mitchell stated, “A dozen years ago, before airline unbundling seriously took off, consumers had near-perfect comparison-shopping opportunities among the many airlines back then fighting for customers. Now with radical airline industry consolidation, the massive fragmentation of ancillary fee information that prevents efficient comparative shopping is likely costing consumers billions of dollars per year. The U.S. Department of Transportation needs to act to safeguard consumers from this deceptive, fraudulent and unethical method to obtain business.”
National Consumers League
“Comparison shopping is the cornerstone of how consumers engage in a truly competitive marketplace, especially when it comes to a costly service like air travel,” said John Breyault, vice president of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud for the National Consumers League (NCL). “NCL urges the Department of Transportation to reopen this important proceeding and ensure that the basic tenets of transparency, fairness and honesty are respected in the airline industry.”
The Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech)
“Travel Tech supports the Department of Transportation reopening the request for information regarding the re-distribution of airline fare, schedule, and availability information,” said Steve Shur, president of Travel Tech. “Travel Tech’s members provide consumers with the information they need to make informed choices when booking travel. Our members maintain a vibrant, competitive marketplace where suppliers compete on price and service which benefits consumers and gives them access to all of their travel options in one place. The Department should reopen this proceeding without further delay to explore how restrictions on access to flight information may harm consumers and their ability to effectively comparison shop for travel.”
Travel Fairness Now
“Travel Fairness Now (TFN) and the more than 70,000 consumers it represents applaud Senators Blumenthal, Feinstein, Markey, Warren and Wyden for standing up for the traveling public as the largest airlines continue to block travelers from seeing the information they need to get the best fares and flights,” said Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director of Travel Fairness Now. “We welcome the Senators’ call for DOT to fulfill its responsibility to ensure that consumers have access to complete published airline, price, schedule and availability information.
Reopening the request for information will uncover anti-competitive and anti-consumer business practices and give the flying public a chance to be heard on an increasingly unfair system.”
About Travel Fairness Now
Travel Fairness Now is made up of more than 70,000 travelers who believe easy, online comparison shopping and genuine transparency are critical to competition, which is vital to health of American families, businesses, communities and the economy. Before travelers can begin the flying experience, they need to survive the buying experience. For more information, visit www.travelfairnessnow.org.