DOT May Require Agencies To Disclose Air Ticket Incentives - Business Travel News

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DOT May Require Agencies To Disclose Air Ticket Incentives

November 01, 2011 - 04:05 PM ET

By Jay Boehmer

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 manner."

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.

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