Consumers will get a bit more information about the true cost of an airline ticket, thanks to a court ruling. A U.S. Court of Appeals said airlines must include taxes and other government fees in their advertised fares.
The requirement is part of new U.S. Transportation Department rules designed to promote transparency in air fares. It said any advertised fare must be the entire price the consumer will pay for the ticket. The rule was challenged in court by Southwest Airlines, Spirit Air and Allegiant Travel.
Some consumer groups wanted the rule to go even further, pointing out that nearly all airlines now charges fees for checked bags and other perks that were once included in the price of the ticket. Airlines have resisted including fees in ads, pointing out not everyone checks a bag, or the same number of bags.
While some customers have gotten used to the baggage fees, James, a Delta customer from Smyrna, TN, says the airline is now adding insult to injury.
Ads on bags
"I recently flew from Charlotte to Atlanta," James wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. "I paid $60 to check 2 bags. When I picked up my luggage, there was an advertisement on each of them. It's called a 'Deltabagtag', and is a promotion for the Atlanta Braves. If I am going to pay $30 per bag, the last thing I want to do is have an advertisement placed on it. More to the point, if Delta is going to advertise directly on my luggage, it should be free to check a bag. It's disgusting that this airline, which got me to Atlanta 30 minutes late, rubs in my face the fact they charge exorbitant baggage fees by forcing me to remove advertisement tags from my luggage which they tied around the handles of my bags."
In the case before the court, the justices voted 2-1 to side with the Transportation Department, rejecting the airlines' arguments that advertising base fares are not deceptive. Airlines want to advertise the lowest fares possible for competitive reasons. Having to advertise higher fares might not lose business to other airlines, but it might cause consumers to seek alternate forms of travel.
The court also upheld two other new rules requiring airlines to allow customers to cancel tickets without penalty within 24 hours of purchase, as long as they purchased them more than a week before the flight. And thanks to the court, airlines will be barred from raising fees after a customer has already purchased a ticket.