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Airlines sue over Bidens fee disclosure rule

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U.S. airlines filed suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation alleging its new federal rule for earlier fee disclosures will confuse customers instead of helping them.

Airlines for America, which represents major U.S. commercial carriers, filed the suit with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways and United Airlines.

Last month, President Joe Biden’s Department of Transportation issued a final rule that requires airlines to tell consumers upfront what fees they charge for a first or second checked bag, a carry-on bag, and for canceling or changing a reservation. DOT officials said the rule would save passengers over half a billion dollars a year in unnecessary or unexpected fees.

Airlines for America said that’s not the case.

“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. Airlines already provide consumers with complete disclosure of all fees associated with air travel before they purchase a ticket,” the organization said in a statement. “The ancillary fee rule by the Department of Transportation will greatly confuse consumers who will be inundated with information that will only serve to complicate the buying process.”

The lawsuit seeks to have the final rule tossed.

The group said customers already have access to information about airline fees in what it called a competitive environment.

“DOT’s attempt to regulate private business operations in a thriving marketplace is beyond its authority. DOT has failed to establish that consumers are unable to obtain information about ancillary fees,” Airlines for America said. “To the contrary, consumers are well-aware of the existence of ancillary services fees. Airlines go to great lengths to make their customers knowledgeable about these fees. In addition to the disclosures required by existing DOT regulations, 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.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg last month called such fees a burden for Americans.

“Airlines should compete with one another to secure passengers’ business – not to see who can charge the most in surprise fees,” Buttigieg said. “DOT’s new rule will save passengers over half a billion dollars a year in unnecessary or unexpected fees by holding airlines accountable for being transparent with their customers.”