House OKs letting airlines use base price in fare ads
WASHINGTON – In a victory for airlines and their workers’ unions, the House rejected consumers’ complaints and passed legislation Monday letting airline advertising emphasize the base price of tickets, before taxes and fees are added.
The bipartisan legislation would roll back federal regulations that since 2012 have required ads to most prominently display the full ticket price. Under the bill, the base price would have to be the one most prominently shown in ads as long as taxes and fees are displayed separately, such as in footnotes or pop-up ads.
The measure was approved by voice vote, in which individual lawmakers’ votes are not recorded. Such votes are used often for noncontroversial bills, but they can also allow legislators to avoid taking a public position on a touchy issue.
Groups representing airline passengers and companies that frequently rely on corporate travel say the bill’s enactment would return the country to an earlier era of misleading and confusing advertising.
“Their main goal is to be able to offer the public a low-ball price,” said Charlie Leocha, chairman of Travelers United, which represents people who travel.
But the airlines – backed by unions representing pilots, mechanics and flight attendants – say including taxes and fees in their advertised prices hurts business and hides from consumers the extra costs that government imposes on air travel. Supporters say the measure would make it clear to fliers just how much of a ticket’s cost comes from federal taxes and fees.
“The rule effectively masks, I would argue hides, the current government-imposed taxes and fees on consumers,” Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said during debate that lasted just 11 minutes.
So far there is no companion bill in the Democratic-run Senate. It is unclear whether the legislation has much chance of enactment in the dwindling months of the current Congress.
More airline news
• Virgin America’s next destination is Wall Street.
The California-based airline filed on Monday for an initial public offering of shares.
Virgin America Inc., which operates out of Los Angeles and San Francisco, flies to 22 airports in the United States and Mexico and has a fleet of 53 planes. It is known for offering a variety of perks on its jets, including live TV, movies, leather seats and purple mood lighting.
• In the in-flight entertainment arms race, Delta Air Lines said it will soon begin offering free movies on seat-back screens in coach class, as well as free TV shows and movies streamed to passengers’ own devices.
With that change effective Friday, Delta said it will offer free entertainment on more than 1,000 of its planes.
The only Delta aircraft without entertainment will be 50-seat regional jets, which are typically flown on shorter flights – those lasting an hour and a half or less.
• If you have a better idea for moving people through airport queues, the Transportation Security Administration wants to hear it.
In fact, the TSA is offering rewards totaling up to $15,000 for the best ideas for a queuing system.
The TSA has long relied on the age-old first-come, first-served system that uses retractable belts and barriers to guide waiting travelers through checkpoints.
But the TSA has several categories of travelers to screen, including premium travelers, passengers in wheelchairs, pilots and crew members, as well as fliers using TSA’s PreCheck program, which offers faster screening for those who voluntarily submit background information.
The TSA will award one prize of at least $5,000 and others of at least $2,500 for the best ideas.
The deadline is Aug. 15, with submissions being accepted online.