More recently, some airlines have begun offering consumers not only a stripped-down "base" airfare, but also a choice of several packages with some of the once-free services added back into the cost of a ticket but at higher prices. With packages and a la carte fees multiplying, comparison shopping for airfares is becoming more difficult, consumer advocates say.
Charlie Leocha, who lobbies for passenger rights on behalf of the Consumer Travel Alliance, welcomed the proposal for changes. "We are getting most of what consumers have been requesting for more than five years," he said.
But the airlines trade group protested: "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,"
The Transportation Department also proposes expanding the pool of airlines required to report performance measures such as late flights, lost bags and passengers bounced from flights due to overbooking. Currently, only airlines that account for at least 1 percent of the market must report those measures, which the department posts online in its Air Travel Consumer Report. The proposed regulations would include carriers that account for little as 0.5 percent of the market. That would bring in discount carriers like Spirit and Allegiant airlines and many regional air carriers.
Major carriers would also have to include the performance of their regional airline partners when reporting their own. That means the on-time and lost bag records for major carriers may take a nose dive, since regional carriers tend to perform more poorly in those areas.
The proposed rules are the Obama administration's third wave for airline passengers. The effort began with a ban on tarmac strandings in which passengers can be cooped up in planes for hours, sometimes in miserable conditions. Facing the prospect of fines of as much as $27,500 per passenger, airlines have nearly eliminated such incidents by canceling flights in advance of severe weather.
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