Would New Bill Put You at Risk of ‘Bait and Switch’ Airfare?

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A federal regulation designed to ensure airfare prices are advertised in full is at risk of being revised — for the worse, according to consumer advocates.

This section of federal law designed to prevent and punish such deceptive ads is known as the full-fare advertising rule. But one provision of a bill recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives — the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 — would amend the rule.

Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott, founder and publisher of the nonprofit publication Elliott.org, explains in a column:

“If Congress passes the act in its current form, it will give airlines clearance to quote an initial, low ticket price and then add taxes and fees before you pay.”

Supporters contend that the FAA Reauthorization Act will give passengers a better travel experience. But critics say its change in the full-fare rule will be “a license for airlines to use bait-and-switch tactics,” Elliott reports.

About the full-fare advertising rule

According to the rule that dates to 2011, advertising that cites an air transportation price is considered “unfair and deceptive” and in violation of federal “unless the price stated is the entire price to be paid by the customer.”

As FAA guidance has plainly put it:

“Under the full fare rule, a seller of air transportation must always list the total price to be paid by the consumer, inclusive of all taxes, fees, and other mandatory charges.”

About the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018

The FAA Reauthorization Act authorizes funding for Federal Aviation Administration programs for the next five years but also includes many other provisions, such as one that would revise the full-fare advertising rule.

According to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which introduced the legislation, the bill will also “provide long-term stability for the Nation’s aviation community, continue investment in U.S. airports, and make necessary reforms to improve American competitiveness and safety in aviation.”

The committee’s packet about the bill further breaks it down, albeit from a pro-legislation standpoint.

The bill may have a long road ahead, though. So far, it has only been sent to committee, and many amendments have already been proposed.

So, if you wish to voice your opinion on the bill, now may be a good time to contact your House representative.

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