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50,000 travelers petition US DOT to require airline fee transparency

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WASHINGTON – The Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), Business Travel Coalition (BTC) and American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) today submitted signatures from more than 50,000 travelers on a petition u

WASHINGTON – The Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), Business Travel Coalition (BTC) and American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) today submitted signatures from more than 50,000 travelers on a petition urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to require airlines to share all of their ancillary fees through every booking channel in which they participate.

“Only two weeks ago, we asked travelers to tell us how they felt about hidden airline fees, and we opened a floodgate,” said Kevin Mitchell, Chairman of the Business Travel Coalition. “Consumers are clearly mad as hell about fees they can’t see, can’t compare, and can’t predict. There is no excuse for hiding fees from travelers, and we’re pleased that the Department of Transportation is poised to take action to protect consumers in this area.”

In the last two weeks alone, more than 50,000 travelers have visited and signed a petition urging the DOT to “require airlines to make their fees fully and easily accessible to both consumers and intermediaries in the travel industry.”

“This issue is not about fees, but about fairness,” said Paul Ruden, Senior Vice President of Legal and Industry Affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents. “Although more than half of all airline tickets are booked through traditional or online travel agencies, the airlines have chosen to hide their fees from the systems that power those bookings. Airlines should be able make a fair profit and set fares and fees that allow them to do so, as long as travelers can see and compare all of those fees in advance.”

Members of the coalition have also undertaken a range of other activities to focus public and media attention on this issue, including:

Organizing a meeting with Secretary LaHood at which consumer and travel organizations shared a letter from representatives of 300+ consumer groups urging him to make airline fees accessible to all travelers.
Presenting another letter urging swift action to the Secretary signed by 300 of the largest travel management companies and corporations, including McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Merck, BASF, Goodrich, Ingersoll Rand, GlaxoSmithKline and Campbell Soup.
Releasing the results of an online survey showing that two-thirds of travelers have been surprised by extra fees after arrival at the airport.
Exposing the airlines’ false claims that their fees are all available on their websites by filming the seven websites, 47 pages, and 11,000 words a typical traveler would need to examine to find the only widely accessible fees, those for baggage.
Releasing an analysis showing that hidden fees can increase the base cost of airfare for a typical two-bag traveler requiring extra legroom by an average of 54%, or by an average of 26% for an equivalent one-bag traveler.
Sharing a survey of business travel managers in which 100% said they felt that airlines should be required to disclose their fees through all existing channels they use.

“No other merchant would expect a consumer to buy their product first, and then find out afterward how much it cost, but that’s exactly what the airlines do,” said Charlie Leocha, President of the Consumer Travel Alliance. “Consumers deserve to see all of the costs upfront and in advance, so they can compare their flights on an apples-to-apples basis against one another. With Secretary LaHood’s help, we hope this will be the last year we need to ‘celebrate’ this unfortunate day for travelers.”

Select filings with the DOT on this issue, including petition signatures, hidden fee stories from travelers and filings by ASTA, BTC, and CTA, can be found at