By Doreen Hemlock and Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel –
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Starting Thursday, forget about finding a $9 airfare.
That’s the beginning of new U.S. Department of Transportation airfare rules that require airlines include all taxes and mandatory fees in the airfare price quoted.
That will make fares look higher, although they only will be advertised in a different — and more transparent — way. The actual fares will not change, travel specialists say.
But it means airfares for $9, advertised by such low-cost carriers as Spirit Airlines, couldn’t fly. Taxes alone would cost more, said Monika Dysart a travel consultant with Sixth Star Travel, in Fort Lauderdale.
“For the consumer, this is obviously very good,” Dysart said. “It’s full disclosure of the fare upfront, instead of letting you get to the airport thinking you got a good deal and then having another $100 or $200 (added).”
Here’s one example of how fares might look different: An airline that used to advertise $39 fares each way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, for example, now would quote the price as $99 round trip. That’s $39 one-way and $39 back and $21 in taxes, said website Travelzoo.com. It might also quote the price as $49.50 each way, based on a round-trip purchase, specialists say.
As a rule of thumb, on a nonstop domestic flight, taxes are generally about $21 round trip. On a one-stop domestic flight, taxes are generally $42. On an international flight, taxes can approach up to $200 round trip. Starting Thursday, all those amounts will be bundled into the fares displayed, said Travelzoo.com.
The rules make it easier for travelers to compare prices across airlines, said consumer advocate Ed Perkins of SmarterTravel.com.
Yet airlines could be even more transparent, if they listed all their fees — from bags to frequent flyer fees, charges for pets and infants and more — “all in one easy to find page,” said George Hobica, the creator of AirfareWatchdog.com, a website that alerts users to low airfares.
The Department of Transportation has been adding consumer protections for air passengers for months.
Last summer, it required airlines refund a baggage fee if a bag is lost. It also doubled to $1,300 the maximum amount that airlines must pay for bumping passengers if a flight is oversold.
On Tuesday, new rules also took effect that:
—Generally prohibit airlines from increasing prices after you bought a ticket.
—Let passengers hold a reservation without payment — or cancel it without a penalty — for 24 hours after the reservation is made, provided the reservation is made at least 7 days before the flight.
—Require disclosure of baggage fees when you book a flight and also require disclosure of baggage fees on e-ticket confirmations.
—Require prompt notification of flight delays of more than 30 minutes, as well as prompt notification of flight cancellations and diversions.
Some airlines are challenging the government’s price-advertising provisions in court. That lawsuit is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a Transportation Department spokesman said.