Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade organization and a lobby group, responded to comments made by the United States President Joe Biden during his annual State of the Union (SOTU) Address.
Biden stated that his administration is “taking on “junk” fees, those hidden surcharges too many businesses use to make you pay more,” pointing out that US-based carriers will have to show the full ticket price upfront. Additionally, they will be forced to “refund your money if your flight is canceled or delayed”.
“And we’ll prohibit airlines from charging up to $50 roundtrip for families just to sit together,” continued Biden.
Eliminating extra fees for passengers
Called the Junk Fee Prevention Act, the bill aims to tackle various fees imposed upon consumers by credit card companies, internet and cable providers, ticket sellers, hotels, and airlines. For the aviation industry specifically, the US government wants airlines to eliminate fees for parents that want to sit next to their children.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a notice in July 2022 that determined that US-based air transport providers must “ensure that children who are age 13 or younger are seated next to an accompanying adult with no extra charge.” Yet according to a fact sheet about the act, published on February 1, 2023, no airline guarantees fee-free family seating.In response, A4A took to Twitter to state that the organization’s airlines “offer transparency to consumers from first search to touchdown”.
“A4A passenger carriers provide details regarding the breakdown of airfares on their websites, providing consumers clarity regarding the total cost of a ticket,” continued the statement. Furthermore, US airlines “make every effort to accommodate customers traveling together—especially those traveling w/ kids—without additional charges,” continued the statement, vehemently denying that passengers need to pay a family seating fee.
The DOT published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in October 2022, proposing to “require U.S. air carriers, foreign air carriers, and ticket agents to clearly disclose passenger-specific or itinerary-specific baggage fees, change fees, and cancellation fees to consumers whenever fare and schedule information is provided to consumers for flights to, within, and from the United States”.
Furthermore, the agency also proposed “to require these entities to clearly disclose passenger-specific or itinerary-specific fees for adjacent seating whenever fare and schedule information is provided to consumers traveling with young children on flights to, within, and from the United States, and make these fees transactable”.
According to consumer advocates, quoted by the DOT, since most passengers in the US do not travel that often, they might be unaware of certain ancillary fees, like additional charges to select their seats during their itineraries. The practice of “drip pricing”, which displays only part of the full ticket price at the first stages of purchasing a ticket “reduces competition because the customer has invested time and energy into the purchasing process and thus is less likely to abandon the purchase entirely and re-institute a fuller search for options,” argued the advocates.
The SOTU Address is a speech delivered by the US President during the first few weeks of the year to describe the current state of the country, addressing the most pressing matters in front of the US Congress.