The U.S. Department Of
Transportation is delaying by three months to April 2012 the release of
proposed rules governing disclosure of ancillary airline fees through GDSs,
according to a status report released this week. What's more, DOT is expanding
the scope of the rulemaking proposal to include a requirement that travel
agencies disclose "information regarding any incentive payments they
receive in connection with the sale of air transportation," The Beat reported Tuesday.
That idea alone is likely to
elicit strong reactions from airlines and travel agencies, but DOT doesn't
expect to open the proposals to public comment until April 6, 2012.
There will be plenty for
agencies and airlines to assess. As part of this rulemaking, the third installment
of a series of new consumer protection measures known as "Enhancing
Airline Passenger Protections," DOT now is considering requiring that
travel agents disclose "any preferential display of individual fares or
carriers in the ticket agent's Internet displays" and highlight
"carriers whose tickets they sell or do not sell." Additionally, DOT
is weighing whether travel agents must "adopt minimum customer service
standards in relation to the sale of air transportation."
DOT did not expand on those proposals in its monthly "Report on DOT Significant Rulemakings." A spokesman commented, "We have identified additional issues in airline consumer protection to include in a future rulemaking, and we updated our agenda to reflect these plans."
Many of these proposals
appear to have been added in the past month, as DOT's September status report
included only the previously revealed plan to "require, among other
things, that ancillary fees be displayed at all points of sale" in an
effort to "further address concerns about hidden and deceptive fees and
allow consumers to price shop for air transportation in an effective
That proposal has been in the
works for some time. While DOT in April finalized the second round of its
consumer protection rules, it deferred on whether it would require airlines to make optional services data available through GDSs. At the time, DOT claimed it
needed "to obtain additional information about costs, benefits and
consequences of requiring U.S. and foreign carriers to provide ancillary fee
information to GDSs."
DOT previously had intended
to submit that proposal to the Secretary of Transportation's office at the end
of August. That has been delayed until the end of this month, according to
DOT's monthly status report. The department had expected the Office of
Management and Budget to then review the proposal by year-end, but now expects
that to take until the end of March 2012. That will be followed by the
published proposal, which kicks off a 30-day public comment period, according
to this week's update.