WASHINGTON (AP) — In a victory for airlines and their workers' unions, the House rejected consumers' complaints and easily passed legislation Monday letting airline advertising emphasize the base price of tickets, before taxes and fees are added.
The bipartisan legislation would roll back federal regulations that since 2012 have required ads to most prominently display the full ticket price. Under the bill, the base price could be the figure most prominently shown in ads and ticket-selling websites as long as taxes and fees are displayed separately, such as in footnotes or pop-up ads.
The measure was approved by voice vote, with individual lawmakers' votes not recorded. That process is used often for non-controversial bills, but it can also allow legislators avoid taking a public position on a touchy issue.
Groups representing airline passengers and companies that rely on corporate travel derided the bill's name, the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, as Orwellian. They said the measure's enactment would return the country to an earlier era of misleading and confusing advertising.
"Their main goal is to be able to offer the public a low-ball price," said Charlie Leocha, chairman of Travelers United, which represents people who travel.
But the airlines — backed by unions representing pilots, mechanics and flight attendants — say including taxes and fees in their advertised prices hurts business and hides from consumers the extra costs that government imposes on air travel.
Showing the full price "can dampen demand for travel and ultimately cost even more jobs in an industry that has lost nearly one-third of its work force since 2001, typically resulting in reduced service to small and rural communities," according to an April letter to lawmakers from Airlines for America, the industry's chief trade group, and other airline and labor organizations.
Monday's vote underscored the clout wielded by the alliance on this issue between the airlines and their employees' unions, which often have a fractious relationship.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, almost 60 percent of the $2.2 million in political contributions since January 2013 from airline political committees and individual workers has gone to Republicans. Of the $3 million contributed by air transport unions, two-thirds has gone to Democrats. In addition, airlines reported having 213 lobbyists in Washington last year while unions had another 74.
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