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Transportation Committee Pushes for Clarity on Airline Fees, Seating Sizes

A U.S. Transportation Department advisory committee this week recommended that airlines transparently disclose fees and seat sizes to consumers before they buy tickets—and that hotels include mandatory resort fees in the price of the room.

A U.S. Transportation Department advisory committee this week recommended that airlines transparently disclose fees and seat sizes to consumers before they buy tickets—and that hotels include mandatory resort fees in the price of the room.

There should be no surprises. That’s the message a federal advisory committee has for both the airline and hotel industries.

The Transportation Department’s Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections earlier this week offered guidance to inform recommendations for the two travel-related industries in a departmental report.

In particular, the recommendations suggest that airlines should disclose to passengers how large their seats will be, as well as the cost of changing or canceling flights, before they buy tickets.

The committee also highlighted safety issues involving mobile devices such as smartphones. The group recommended that airlines should have the authority to decide whether voice calls are allowed, rather than enforce across-the-board regulations.

“These strong recommendations, if instituted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), will change the face of airline travel and provide additional transparency, safety and competition for airline passengers and travelers,” said Charlie Leocha, chairman of the advocacy group Travelers United, in a blog post. Leocha is the consumer advocate on the committee.

The hotel industry also was affected by the recommendations due to the recent practice of not including secondary resort fees with room rates. The committee recommended that such mandatory fees should be included. In recent months, Travelers United has been focused on ending such fees.

Regulatory groups are not required to act on these recommendations, but they could help shape forthcoming policies.

Space Becoming an Issue

Beyond the fees, the biggest story here may be the recommendations on seating space for passengers. In recent years, the Associated Press reports space between seats has shrunk by roughly half a foot in some cases. Some groups are suggesting that the Federal Aviation Administration should set a minimum seat size.

“Airlines are aggressively reducing seat and passenger space to squeeze more revenue out [of] passengers, despite health and safety being threatened,” FlyersRights.org President Paul Hudson told USA Today last year.

The airline industry, however, has traditionally opposed regulation of seat sizes.

“We believe individual airlines should be able to determine fleet configurations that best meet their customers’ needs, as they do today,” Airlines for America (A4A) spokeswoman Victoria Day told the Los Angeles Times in 2013.

Committee member Dave Berg, an attorney for A4A, a trade group for major U.S. carriers, said that airline choice for seating size “goes to the heart and soul” of airline competition, according to the AP.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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