A4A, U.S. Airlines Sue DOT Over Fee Disclosure Rule

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Lobbying group Airlines for America and six major U.S. carriers have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation over its final rule, issued in April, regarding the disclosure of airline ancillary service fees, according to court documents filed Friday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana.

The new rule requires that airlines and ticket agents disclose any ancillary or extra fees alongside the full fare, and that airlines provide information on all such fees to companies required to provide them. The individual fees must be disclosed on the airline’s online platform, and not displayed through a hyperlink, according to DOT. 

The carriers that joined in the suit are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways and United Airlines.

The petitioners, seeking an order vacating and setting aside the final rule, challenge it on the grounds that it is “contrary to statute,” including that it “exceeds the department’s authority,” and that it is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise contrary to law.” 

“U.S. airlines care deeply about the customer purchasing experience from first search to final purchase and invest heavily in their websites and mobile apps to ensure both transparency of all costs and ease of use for each customer with a purchase path tailored to that customer’s specific choices,” A4A said in a statement. “Airlines already provide consumers with complete disclosure of all fees associated with air travel before they purchase a ticket.”

The group added that DOT’s ancillary fee rule “will greatly confuse consumers” who will be “inundated with information” that will complicate the buying process.

“DOT’s attempt to regulate private business operations in a thriving marketplace is beyond its authority,” A4A said, adding that airlines go to “great lengths” to disclose those fees and that consumers are “well-aware” of the existence of ancillary services fees.

A4A said that disclosure regulations already exist, and that “airlines engage in competitive advertising and emphasize ancillary fee discounts and benefits when they promote their loyalty programs. The DOT ancillary rule is a bad solution in search of a problem.”

“We will vigorously defend our rule protecting people from hidden junk fees and ensuring travelers can see the full price of a flight before they purchase a ticket,” DOT wrote in a statement. “Many air travelers will be disappointed to learn that the airline lobby is suing to stop these common-sense protections.”

RELATED: DOT Announces Airline Ancillary Fee, Refund Rules

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