Buttigieg is ‘speechless’ as airline lobby sues government over new fee disclosure rules

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg admitted he was left “speechless” after major airlines filed a lawsuit over new rules on fees they charge customers.

The trade group Airlines for America was joined by Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways Corp., Hawaiian Airlines, and Alaska Airlines in the suit filed last week in a federal appeals court challenging the Biden administration’s new rule that requires the companies to reveal extra fees on purchases.

“We just issued a rule requiring airlines to inform you, before you buy a ticket, of fees they will charge you,” Buttigieg said on X.

“Now, the airline lobby is suing us, saying that if you have the right to that information it will ‘confuse’ you,” the Democrat added.  “For once, I am speechless.”

Airlines for America said in a statement that the rule “will greatly confuse consumers who will be inundated with information that will only serve to complicate the buying process.” The group added that the Biden Transportation Department is attempting “to regulate private business operations in a thriving marketplace,” in a move that oversteps its authority.

“Airlines go to great lengths to make their customers knowledgeable about these fees,” Airlines for America said Monday. “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.”

Associated Press reported:

The Transportation Department announced the new rule on April 24. It would require airlines and travel agents to disclose upfront any charges for baggage and canceling or changing a reservation. Airlines must show the fees on the first website page where they quote a price for a flight.

The agency estimated that the rule will save consumers more than $500 million a year.

 

The lawsuit was filed in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans but Dallas-based carrier Southwest did not join in because it reportedly is not affected by the rule since its passengers are not charged extra fees for baggage or flight changes.

“Overall, we support every airline’s right to price its products but believe fees should be clearly and consistently disclosed, so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions,” Southwest said, according to AP.

The Transportation Department said “travelers will be disappointed” to learn of the lawsuit.

“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. Many air travelers will be disappointed to learn that the airline lobby is suing to stop these common-sense protections,” the department said in a statement Monday.

After finalizing the new rule last month, Buttigieg said that “airlines should compete with one another to secure passengers’ business — not to see who can charge the most in surprise fees.”

“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,” he added.

Frieda Powers

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