Since March, the travel community has been watching the proceedings around H.R. 4156, better known as The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014. In what some are calling a sneaky move, the bill was placed on the suspension calendar earlier in July. And on Monday, July 28, the House of Representatives passed the Transparent Airfares Act by a verbal vote, not requiring a vote count from the floor. With a simple majority, the bill will move on to the Senate for another vote, before ending up on the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Both sides have their reasons for being for or against the Transparent Airfares Act. More importantly, both sides want you to believe that the future of the bill will change the way we fly forever.
A Brief History of The Transparent Airfares Act
The Transparent Airfares Act was introduced to the House of Representatives on March 6, 2014. The bill was introduced by Rep. Bill Schuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group that includes Democrats Peter DeFazio, Rick Larsen, and Nick Rahall, as well as Republicans Tom Graves and Frank LoBiondo.
The bill went to the House Transportation Committee, and sold as a clarification of the 2012 Department of Transportation mandate that required airlines to advertise airfare with taxes and fees included. The bill was presented under the auspices that “Virtually all consumer products are sold at a base price, with taxes added on at the point of purchase… H.R. 4156 will allow air carriers and ticket agents to display the actual cost of air travel in a clear and transparent way–enabling passengers to see the base airfare as well as the government-imposed taxes and fees.” Without a hearing on the bill, the Transportation Committee recommended the bill for passage without amendment.
Who Supports The Transparent Airfares Act
Several organizations, including the U.S. Travel Association, Airlines for America (the advocacy group for the American air carriers), and the National Taxpayers Union have expressed their support for the passing of the Transparent Airfares Act. The proponents of the bill tout that having the additional transparency would allow travelers to make better decisions when it comes to their travel. Additionally, travelers would be able to fully understand how much of their flight is the airfare, and how much is taxes.
In a release sent immediately after the House passage of the Transparent Airfares Act, Airlines for America wrote: “…nearly $63, or 21 percent, of a typical $300 domestic round-trip ticket is actually federal taxes and fees in disguise. Under current law, many consumers shop for travel, unaware how the higher TSA fee or the other federally imposed taxes are impacting their advertised airfare prices.” Each of the proponent groups agree that the bill would provide travelers the transparency they deserve, so they can understand where their taxes and fees are going.
Who Opposes The Transparent Airfares Act
Many travel and consumer watchdog organizations, including the American Society of Travel Agents, have expressed their dissent for the Transparent Airfares Act. Opponents say that allowing the bill to pass would allow airlines to advertise deceptively low airfares that would bait the traveler into buying into a price that doesn’t exist.
American Society of Travel Agents CEO Zane Kerby said in a release: “This bill would allow airlines to deceive travelers about the actual cost of a flight, a fight they already lost in 2012 when the Department of Transportation put rules in place to prevent precisely this situation…There is no evidence of consumer harm under the DOT rule, only benefits for the traveling public.” The opponents agree that not being able to compare full airfare could ultimately hurt the public and their travelers through unnecessary expenses.
What Can You Do About The Transparent Airfares Act?
Having passed through the House of Representatives, the bill now moves to the United States Senate for debate, and ultimately a vote that could send The Transparent Airfares Act to the President. It is important to let your Senator know where you stand on the bill with a letter, phone call, or e-mail. Regardless of what side of the bill you stand on, it’s vital that every traveler get involved in this important bill that could have monumental effects on how we fly.
Where do you stand on The Transparent Airfares Act? Let me know where you’re at in the comments below!