The government would standardize the way airlines disclose fees for basic services like checked bags, seat assignments and ticket changes so that passengers can more easily comparison-shop the full cost of flights under a bipartisan Senate bill introduced Wednesday.
The proposal is part of an airline policy bill sponsored by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the committee's senior Democrat. It would extend the operating authority of the Federal Aviation Administration through Oct. 1, 2017. That authority is due to expire on March 31.
The bill would require the Department of Transportation develop a way to display fees that's easy for consumers to understand and require that airlines and ticket agents use the system. A report last year by the committee's Democratic staff found that airline fees, especially for things like ticket cancellations or changes, are often hidden from consumers while shopping fares online or disclosed in lengthy paragraphs of tiny type-face that's difficult to read.
Airlines would also have to return fees for bags that are lost or delayed more than six hours after the arrival of a domestic flight, and more than 12 hours after the arrival of an international flight under the bill. Airlines would also be required to automatically refund fees for services purchased but not received by passengers. Examples would include things like advance seat assignments that turn out to be unavailable or early boarding that isn't provided.