Spirit Airlines misleading ad demonstrates need for regulation

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Washington, DC – Last week’s effort by Spirit Airlines to claim that new U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rules require airlines to “hide” taxes in advertising airfares not only is misleading, but demonstrates exactly why air travelers need the kind of disclosure DOT is requiring. Open Allies for Airfare Transparency agrees with the sharp criticism leveled against Spirit by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that it distorts the truth, and that “being able to compare the full price [of airfare] before purchase is both necessary and fair.” That full price is the base fare+taxes+fees for baggage, seating, boarding and more.

“Left to their own devices, airlines will not disclose fees,” Open Allies Executive Director Art Sackler said, “because the financial incentives for them are to hide that information. Spirit’s ad reveals that mindset and makes crystal clear why the government has to step in: if airlines will fight against disclosure of taxes, they will fight even harder to resist disclosing their fees to consumers. Congress has an opportunity in the next few weeks to underscore that direction to DOT through the FAA Reauthorization legislation, and we urge them to do so.”

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In requiring improved disclosure of taxes and baggage fees this month, DOT has taken important steps toward true transparency for consumers. But more needs to be done, and Open Allies looks forward to the additional rulemaking on fee disclosure to be conducted by DOT later this year. That rulemaking should address full transparency and transactability of all airline fees through every distribution channel in which an airline participates. That would ensure meaningful comparison shopping across airlines on the “all-in” price of a ticket at any point of sale used by consumers.

With 50% or more of all airline tickets purchased via traditional travel agents or online travel sites, full disclosure of up-to-the-minute fee information is imperative. The nearly 400 members of Open Allies believe the traveling public is entitled to buy airline tickets, including fees for baggage or other services they select, based on clear, complete and simple-to-understand information.