May 6 - Travel Industry Urges U.S. Senate to Reject Orwellian Airfare Transparency Bill


May 6, 2014


The Honorable Maria Cantwell

Chair

Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security

U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

427 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510


The Honorable Kelly Ayotte

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security

U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

560 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510


Dear Senators Cantwell and Ayotte: 

We the undersigned write to add our voices to other consumer and travel industry groups in unequivocal opposition to the Senate Commerce Committee adopting a companion bill to the Orwellian-titled House bill, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 (H.R. 4156). This airline-inspired bill would reverse a critically important U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rule adopted in 2012 as a cure to opaque and misleading airline advertising.

H.R. 4156 was passed out of the House Transportation Committee with no hearings at which stakeholders would have had an opportunity to inform Congress of their views and the flaws in this bill. Indeed, The Washington Post reported on April 25, “Consumers have reacted to this bill in the same way their advocates have: They’re dead-set against it.” The New York Times likewise criticized the bill in an editorial saying, "This push to mislead consumers is particularly galling since recent mergers, like that of American Airlines and US Airways, have made the industry less competitive."

In rejecting the airlines’ 2012 court challenge to the DOT rule, that airlines now hope to use Congress to override, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rightly sided with DOT observing: “Based on common sense and over three decades of experience and complaints, DOT concluded that it was deceitful and misleading when the most prominent price listed by an airline is anything other than the total, final price of air travel.”

In short, this proposed legislation would reduce price transparency, harm consumers with higher prices-paid and undermine DOT’s authority to safeguard consumers from unfair and deceptive practices. Airlines’ efforts here are stunning and set a dangerous precedent for participants in any industry, such as gas stations and banking, to undermine their regulator.

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 consolidated virtually all airline consumer protections at DOT by force of the federal preemption doctrine. The recent Ginsburg v. Northwest Airlines decision of the U.S. Supreme Court is an illustration of the fact that except for the protection that DOT provides them, airline consumers (with rare exceptions) are absolutely bereft of any rights or remedies for unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The real damage done then, by H.R. 4156, would be to destroy the only bastion of protection that consumers have and strand them in a consumer protection no-man’s-land.

Congress should be evaluating policies to strengthen DOT’s consumer-protection authority, not ways to eviscerate it.

Sincerely,

American Society of Travel Agents

Business Travel Coalition

The Travel Team, Inc.

Hickory Global Partners, LLC

McGill University Institute of Air & Space Law

Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group

Stanley Hotel

Balboa Travel, Inc.

Spokane International Airport

Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau

World Travel, Inc.

NAAFA

MacNair Travel Management / American Express

Association for Airline Passenger Rights

CI Travel

Montgomery Airport Authority

HealthCare California

TravelStore

National Instruments

Dollar Tree

Eaton Corporation

AirlinePassengers.org

Uniglobe Travel USA

Travelers United (formerly Consumer Travel Alliance)

Kellogg Company

Topaz International

The Travel Insider

Joselyn, Tepper & Associates, Inc.

HNTB Corporation

VISA Tours and Travel Ltd

Makino, Inc.

Adelman Travel Group

Global Travel

Travel Agency Lesser

Commercial Air Consulting

Dutch Broadway Travel

Air Land Sea Consultants

Kilauea Travel Group INC

Avia Marketing Consultants, Inc.

Classic Travel

Travelink Incorporated

Topco

Geraci Travel

Discount Travel and Cruise

RMA Travel & Tours

Child Travel Services

North Island Travel

Dream Travel

Travel Simplicity

Menno Travel Service

The Remington Group

Berger Travel Agency, Inc.

Hidden Treasure Tours, Inc.

Premiere Travel

Cresta World Travel

Frosch-GlobalPoint Travel, LLC

Corporate Travel Management

A & I Travel Management, Inc.

Antietam Travel Service, Inc.

Aker Solutions

Abundant Travel

Sun Travel

Colwick Travel

Options Travel

Traveline

Travelwise International

HNL Travel Associates

Teel's Travel Planners, Inc.

Anthony Travel, Inc.

Corniche Travel Group

LXR Travel LLC

Changing Planes

Redfern Travel

Up and Away American Express Travel


Copy: Honorable Members, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

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