Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Street
The Street
Daniel Kline

Congress May Kill Obama-Era Airline Rule That Benefits Passengers

President Joe Biden wants to eliminate junk fees and make pricing more transparent in industries including banking and travel. 

His efforts have not much progressed. Presidents generally have little power to make things happen without support from Congress.

Still and all, Biden has instructed Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to go after airlines and their hidden fees.

DON'T MISS: Southwest, JetBlue, and American Airlines Face Major New Crisis

"The Department of Transportation is working on rules that would require airlines and travel sites to disclose fees up front, fees like things if you want to sit next to your young child. Well, guess what? Or your -- check your baggage or change your ticket. You’re going to be surprised. They’re going to charge you for that without telling you. Your ticket is going to cost a heck of a lot more," Biden said in a speech last October.

While the president has been working on making airlines more transparent, Congress has essentially been moving in the opposite direction. 

Certain changes would roll back rules passed under President Barack Obama that require airlines to show total ticket prices -- including taxes and fees. They're part of a sweeping piece of legislation that covers the Federal Aviation Administration.

Knowing exactly what your flight will cost is a challenge.

Image source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Congress May Relax Flight Price Transparency Rules

Congress has to reauthorize certain FAA programs every five years. On June 9, a 773-page proposal was introduced to do that -- and would also come with some pretty big changes. 

Those would include allowing airlines to advertise base airfares, the costs excluding taxes and fees, as long as they link to the full price or disclose it in some other way, Travel Weekly reported.

That's a slippery slope, given that base fares can mean something very different at different carriers. Spirit Airlines (SAVE) and Frontier Airlines (ULCC) use a la carte pricing, much different from buying tickets on Southwest Airlines (LUV), JetBlue (JBLU), or any other full-cost carrier. 

Basically, Congress is ignoring Biden's efforts to add transparency by looking to loosen the limited protections consumers already have. 

Airlines have long opposed the Obama-era rules requiring them to add taxes and fees into their advertised prices.

"These protections were hard fought and took years to enact," William McGee, an aviation expert at the American Economic Liberties Project, told Travel Weekly. 

"Any consumer can tell you that online airline bookings are confusing enough. The last thing we need is to roll back an existing protection that provides effective transparency."

Biden Wants Transparency in Other Areas, Too

The challenge with airline advertising is that not every airline is selling the same thing. A Spirit ticket, for example, does not include baggage or a seat assignment as those cost extra. JetBlue fares include a seat, but some do not include bags, while Southwest tickets include baggage and a boarding spot but not a specific seat.

To further complicate things, traditional carriers including Delta Air Lines (DAL), United Airlines (UAL), and American Airlines (AAL) sell all-included tickets and basic economy fares that include different things depending upon which airline you pick.

Biden has also worked on (and had some success) in another effort to hold airlines accountable.

"Last summer, if your flight was canceled or delayed, only one top airline guaranteed that you could rebook for free, even because they’re the ones who canceled you, not you; you didn’t fail to show up. They canceled. When Secretary Buttigieg called them out on this, about 10 airlines -- now 10 airlines rebook for free. They don’t charge the fee. That’s progress," Biden said.

Sign up for Real Money Pro to learn the ins and outs of the trading floor from Doug Kass’s Daily Diary.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.