I caught a mention of this on the Marketplace Open this morning, and now Gulliver has picked it up. Apparently the Department of Transportation now requires more transparency in airline price advertising:
Beginning Jan. 24, the Transportation Department will enforce a rule requiring that any advertised price for air travel include all government taxes and fees. For the last 25 years, the department has allowed airlines and travel agencies to list government-imposed fees separately, resulting in a paragraph of fine print disclaimers about charges that can add 20 percent or more to a ticket’s price.
“Requiring all mandatory charges to be included in a single advertised price will help consumers compare airfares and make it easier for them to determine the full cost of their trip,” Bill Mosley, a department spokesman, said by e-mail in response to questions about the rule.
The government and the airlines are being guarded in discussing the full-fare advertising policy, since Spirit Airlines, Allegiant and Southwest have asked the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to block the proposed change, arguing that it violates their commercial free speech rights.
Yes, I suppose the First Amendment gives people the right to lie, dissemble, exaggerate, and defraud. Oh wait—regulation of commercial speech seems well-established in the U.S. Good luck, guys.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if airlines change their booking software before the 24th. If you book flights between, say, Chicago and London, on aa.com, you can find one-way fares as low as—no kidding—$86 outbound. Of course, the lowest return fare is $466 (connecting through Toronto on February 14th), and taxes add another $204.30 for a total fare of $756.30. (Part of that includes the asinine £60 ($95) tax to leave Heathrow that probably won't die before the Olympics.)
The airlines will claim, of course, that they can't calculate the taxes and fees in some cases, like departing Heathrow, because they don't know from the start whether the customer will be subject to the tax. This is a technical problem that a competent programmer can solve, I think. Let's see after the 24th whether they solve it.