Rule would make airlines clearly disclose bag fees, other charges

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Airlines and travel agents would be required to clearly spell out baggage and other fees to travelers under a rule proposed Wednesday.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx proposed the rule requiring airlines and travel agents to disclose online and at other points of sale the cost of the first and second checked bag, a carry-on item and advance seat assignments.

The new rule would expand on several consumer protection regulations adopted by the Department of Transportation since 2009 aimed at the airline industry.

A previous rule required airlines and travel agents to disclose only if bag fees are imposed and to inform customers where they can review those fees. The proposed rule expands that requirement to other fees and requires that airlines and travel agents make it easier for passengers to find and understand such costs.

“Knowledge is power and our latest proposal helps ensure consumers have clear and accurate information when choosing among air transportation options,” Foxx said in a statement.

The airline industry has already spoken out against the proposed rule, noting that other businesses, such as hotels, are not required to advertise their full rates.

“We believe this proposal overreaches and limits how free markets work and will have negative consequences,” said Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation’s airlines. “The government does not prescriptively tell other industries (hotels, computer makers, rental car companies) how they should sell their products, and we believe consumers are best served when the companies they do business with are able to tailor products and services to their customers.”

Airlines are also pushing back on other fronts. The industry supports a bill in Congress that would revoke a rule adopted in 2012 that requires airlines and travel agents to disclose the full price of airline tickets, including taxes and fees.

The rule proposed by Foxx would also require more airlines to report on-time performance, rates of lost bags, and the number of passengers bumped because of overbooking of flights.

The current rule requires airlines that carry at least 1 percent of domestic passengers to report such information to the Department of Transportation. The proposed rule would lower that threshold to 0.5 percent of domestic passengers, which includes smaller carriers such as Florida-based Spirit Airlines.