DeFazio, Larsen Introduce Legislation to Increase Airfare Transparency and Protect Consumer
For Immediate Release: March 8, 2017
Jen Gilbreath (DeFazio), 202-225-4472
Douglas Wagoner (Larsen), 202-226-9716
Washington, D.C. -- Today, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen (D-WA) introduced H.R. 1420, the Know Before You Fly Act. This legislation enhances and strengthens protections for air travelers during mass flight delays and cancellations resulting from U.S. airline computer network failures, and provides greater transparency regarding airline ancillary fees and noxious fume events.
“When consumers shop around for an airline fare, they deserve to know exactly what they are getting before spending hundreds of dollars on a ticket. This legislation will guarantee that airlines disclose bag fees up front so that consumers will not break the bank on these ancillary charges after they click ‘buy’. It will also require airlines to provide customers with information about what services they will or will not provide during widespread network disruptions that cause flight delays or cancellations, such as hotel accommodations or food vouchers. This will help minimize confusion and hold airlines accountable when their ancient computer systems suffer catastrophic failures, stranding passengers in airports far from their final destinations,” said DeFazio.
“Unexpected fees and lengthy delays are two surefire ways to ruin someone’s trip,” said Larsen, the Ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Aviation. “By requiring airlines to be more transparent about baggage fees and how they will help passengers affected by large-scale network meltdowns, this bill would institute long-overdue consumer protections for folks who fly.”
In 2015 and 2016, numerous U.S. airline computer network failures resulted in the delay or cancellation of tens of thousands of flights, stranding millions of passengers at airports across the country. Last summer alone, tens of thousands of passengers were displaced—many for days—during system-wide ground stops that resulted from massive computer network failures. Stories of passengers left sleeping on airport floors without knowing if their airline was responsible for providing relief such as food, hotel vouchers, or seats on another airline permeated the news. The Know Before You Fly Act will guarantee that airlines clearly disclose to each ticket purchaser, before he or she buys a ticket, what they will (and will not) do for them during widespread network disruptions that delay or cancel flights.
U.S. airlines have surged to record profitability in recent years, bolstered in part by their assessment of ancillary charges. In 2015 alone, airlines collected $6.8 billion in bag fees and reservation change fees. Yet the Trump administration has held up a Department of Transportation rulemaking that tightens requirements on airlines’ disclosure of ancillary fees, highlighting the need for a legislative mandate to preserve even the basic requirement that airlines must disclose ancillary fees during the ticket purchase process. The bill would codify the existing requirement that airlines and ticket agents must disclose and provide a list of checked and carry-on bag fees before customers purchase a ticket.
In addition, the bill directs the Federal Aviation Administration to improve its process for collecting and analyzing reports of potentially hazardous fume events in airplane cabins.