New airline pricing rules go into effect today

January 26, 2012|By Michelle Deal-Zimmerman | The Baltimore Sun

If you're booking a flight today, airfares may appear higher than yesterday but they're really not.

That's because the Department of Transportation's new rules on advertised airfares goes into effect today. The new rules require that airlines published fares also include fees and taxes that customers will have to pay.

It's an attempt to increase transparency for consumers and do away with those "teaser" fares that turn out to be higher than you thought.

The new rule applies not just to airlines and their websites, but also to booking sites like Expedia, Orbitz, etc.

Spirit Airlines, which offers flights from Washington but not Baltimore, is fighting back against the rules. The airline, known for its super-low fares and add-on fees for just about everything, has launched a website, On the site, Spirit claims the government is attempting to "hide" taxes within the price of the fares. "If the government can hide taxes in your airfares, then they can carry out their hidden agenda and quietly increase their taxes."

It's an interesting take on the new rule - quite clever. True? Depends on your politics, I guess.

I did go to to check out how that airline is implementing the new rule. Whereas the taxes and security fees used to be visible on their own line during checkout, the amounts are no longer shown. Instead, there's a line that reads 'Govt. Taxes & Fees" in blue letters. When you click on it, a box pops up outlining the fees you will pay, including $3.80 for each segment; Sept. 11th security fee of up to $10 for round-trip; and $18 in airport facility fees.

In their flight search, Southwest says the rule creates fares that are unwieldy to advertise (for example, $78.80) so it will round up the actual fare for "display purposes only." That goes for Airtran, too.

In addition to the airfare changes, new rules that went into effect this week also inlcude these changes:

-All baggage fees not included in airfares must be disclosed. (Airlines are dealing with this by adding a separate page on their websites that detail these fees.) The baggage fees also have to be the same throughout the passenger's entire itinerary.

-Airlines cannot raise ticket prices after you have already purchased a ticket.

-Airlines must notify passengers promptly (within 30 minutes) if a flight will be delayed more than 30 minutes or if it is canceled.

-Passengers can hold a reservation for up to 24 hours without paying for it.

-Passengers will be able to cancel or change a reservation within 24 hours without penalty.


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