Magnifying Glass Ancillary Fees
Photograph and graphic illustration ©2012 Brian Cohen.

New Total Cost Airfare Rule Becomes Effective Starting Today

Have you ever searched for an airfare and found what appears to be a great deal, only to find that the airfare committed what could be considered a “bait and switch” tactic and did not include taxes and fees until just before you were ready to pay for it?

New Total Cost Airfare Rule Becomes Effective Starting Today

Those days should be gone, as a new rule is supposed to be in effect as of today where airlines are now required by the United States Department of Transportation to include all mandatory taxes and fees in advertised airfares.

If you search for an airfare today and find that it seems to have increased considerably from yesterday, chances are that the airfare is merely including taxes and fees. The total airfare — barring a fare increase, that is — should remain the same otherwise.

I not only say that it is about time, but that this policy was long overdue.

Airlines infamous for advertising ultra-low airfares such as Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines — the latter of which advertises so-called “$9.00 airfares” — have reportedly filed legal appeals to have the United States Court of Appeals in the Washington, D.C. circuit overturn the rule, claiming that the rule “violates commercial free speech rights.”

A violation of the right to free speech? Seriously?!?

One would argue that the practices of advertising ultra-low airfares is nothing more than deceptive advertising. In fact, one could argue that by omitting items as taxes imposed by foreign countries such as Great Britain — where taxes could amount to hundreds of dollars — and exorbitant fuel surcharges on international flights whose valuation seems to have no rhyme or reason at times can also be considered deceptive advertising. How can one explain paying $800.00 on what may have been originally advertised as a $150.00 airfare?

I would agree with those sentiments, and I will even go one step further: airlines should disclose the return — or round-trip — airfare when advertising airfares. I never did like the “one-way airfare based on round-trip purchase” model. I only want to know about the cost of a one-way airfare when it is truly a one-way airfare.

Keep in mind, however, that optional fees such as baggage fees and on-board food purchases are not included as part of this rule and therefore airlines are not required to include them in the overall airfare cost. Although there is a required disclosure of baggage fees upon booking and on confirmations of electronic tickets, I believe that the disclosure should be extended to include all ancillary fees. Customers have a right to know what extra costs are associated with any options they may wish to purchase, and those fees should be easy — not difficult — to find.

Other protections to be available to the consumer include:

  • A ban on increases in airfare after a ticket has already been purchased
  • Required and prompt notification of delays of greater than 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions of flights
  • A 24-hour window for passengers to hold or cancel a reservation without payment or penalty for reservations made a week or more before the departure date, although some airlines already have voluntarily implemented this policy for years
  • The same baggage allowance and fees are to apply throughout the itinerary of a passenger, instead of different fees on different segments in different locations, which only confuses the passenger


One might contend that this rule unfairly singles out only airlines and should be extended to other forms of business and commerce pertaining to the sale of goods and services. I wholeheartedly agree, but I also believe that airfares are a good place to start.

It would be nice, for example, to go to a supermarket and have the sales tax already included in the price when you shop for a product. How about having the tax and gratuity already included in the prices of menu items in a restaurant so that you will know exactly how much you will spend? Could there be room for corruption with an all-inclusive pricing model?

Perhaps, but at least it should allow for comparison shopping by consumers to be easier overall.

What do you think?

Photograph and graphic illustration ©2012 Brian Cohen.

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