Attorney General Janet Mills to U.S. Transportation Secretary: Don’t withdraw rule requiring airlines to disclose baggage fees up front

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Attorney General Janet Mills joined a coalition of 16 Attorneys General asking the Trump administration to adopt the rule requiring airlines and third-party booking companies to disclose baggage fees and other charges up front, allowing passengers to know the true cost of travel.

The Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees rule, proposed in January, would make it easier for consumers to understand the full cost of their plane tickets. When a customer books a ticket, the baseline price is typically all that is shown. Carry-on baggage fees, checked baggage fees, seat fees, and other costs are not disclosed until booking is nearly complete – sometimes even after tickets are purchased. The rule would require airlines to post all fees up front, instead of surprising consumers at the end of the booking process.

The AGs are asking U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a letter today to adopt the rule. U.S. airlines are expected to earn $57 billion from these fees this year -$7 billion from baggage fees alone.

“Consumers want more transparency in pricing, not less. Hidden fees should absolutely be discouraged,” said Attorney General Mills. “Families on tight budgets, businesses with set costs, people traveling for emergencies, all should be able to see up front exactly what a trip will cost. The Trump Administration should implement these baggage fee disclosure rules.”

The Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia signed today’s letter.

The Transportation Department announced earlier this month it was planning to withdraw the rule, which was proposed during the final days of the Obama administration. The department said in a notice posted online that the rule would have been “of limited public benefit.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said AG Mills. “In fact, there is no public benefit in withdrawing the rule.”

According to a 2016 study cited by the Attorneys General in their letter to Secretary Chao, travelers paid an average of $100 in fees per round-trip on Spirit airlines, $97 on Frontier and $86.92 on United. “We regularly hear reports from consumers in our states who are confused and frustrated by these fees, which significantly alter the total cost of travel,” the Attorneys General wrote.

The Attorneys General letter details many different fees that airlines are now charging consumers for basic services which were previously considered standard services covered by the basic ticket price. In addition to baggage fees, some airlines charge for printing boarding passes at the airport, allowing passengers to select seats and even for helping children who are traveling by themselves.

“It is critical that consumers are able to quickly and easily determine and understand the full costs of their travel to make informed choices,” the letter states. The Attorneys General wrote that while they are committed to working collaboratively with the Transportation Department to protect consumers and ensure that the country’s aviation industry is able to grow, “this decision by your Department works against those goals, making it harder for Americans to be informed consumers when they travel.”