an airport with many vehicles parked on the ground
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Airlines Sue to Block New Final Transparency Rule From the Department of Transportation

Billions of dollars in ancillary fees are at stake.

Airlines sue to block a new final transparency rule from the Department of Transportation of the United States — which was officially announced on Wednesday, April 24, 2024 — that is designed to require airlines to provide protection to customers from surprise junk fees.

Airlines Sue to Block New Final Transparency Rule From the Department of Transportation

Along with Airlines for America — which is a trade group for the commercial aviation industry in the United States — the airlines which are involved in the lawsuit against the Department of Transportation of the United States include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and United Airlines. The lawsuit — which claims that the new rule would potentially confuse consumers and that its attempt to regulate private business operations in a thriving marketplace is beyond its authority — was filed late on Friday, May 10, 2024 in the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana.

airplanes parked at an airport
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Southwest Airlines is intentionally not involved in the lawsuit, as the airline supports the new final transparency rules.

None of the airlines object to another new rule which provides customers with automatic refunds for significant delays and canceled flights. Airlines will be required to automatically give cash refunds to their customers for flights which are canceled or were significantly delayed. Combined with protecting consumers from costly surprise airline fees, the measures are expected to save consumers greater than $500 million each year and more of their time while simultaneously significantly expanding protections for passengers in commercial air travel and providing passengers an easier pathway to refunds when owed.

Details of the new rules are outlined in this article at The Gate With Brian Cohen.

Joseph Biden signed an Executive Order on Promoting Competition on Friday, July 9, 2021 that encouraged the Department of Transportation to take steps to promote fairer, more transparent, and competitive markets as part of the plan to lower costs for consumers and take on “corporate rip-offs”. Since Biden became president of the United States, the Department of Transportation has helped return greater than $3 billion in refunds and reimbursements that were owed to airline passengers — including greater than $600 million to passengers who were affected by the meltdown of the operations of Southwest Airlines during the holiday season in 2022.

In addition to finalizing the aforementioned rules, the Department of Transportation is also pursuing the enactment of rules that would:

Final Boarding Call

an airplane flying over a highway
Photograph ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

Billions of dollars are at stake, as airlines reportedly earned approximately $5.5 billion in baggage fees alone during the first nine months of 2023. The Department of Transportation is reportedly adamant about defending its new final transparency rules.

One reason why I like the idea of full refunds is that they do not expire. Cash is cash. When airlines offer vouchers, they only retain their value for one year before they automatically expire. I find that unfair when the customer is not at fault. Plus, cash can be used almost anywhere on almost anything else — unlike a voucher, which is only valid with the airline that issued it and usually has restrictions in addition to expiration of its value in one year. Customers should get a refund of their money without having to specifically ask for it when an airline owes them money and not have it replaced with restrictive vouchers.

I also have always been an advocate for customers to know upfront what all the costs that they are facing will be when traveling by airplane. No business entity should ever be allowed to advertise a lower price when mandatory or unavoidable fees will be added to the total cost. I believe that all companies have a right to charge what they want and let the free market dictate whether the fees are fair. They should not be allowed to hide those fees from the customer — especially when advertising a rate with the mandatory fee excluded to deceive the customer into thinking they are initially getting a better price — and these companies do have a right to earn as much revenue and profit as possible…

…but I also do not like having to rely on intervention by the government, as it usually goes awry — even in the rare occurrence that the rules and legislations are actually created with good intentions and not for political reasons.

Only time will tell if these rules are actually enforced…

All photographs ©2024 by Brian Cohen.

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