DOT Committee To Host Ancillary Fee Disclosure Meeting Ahead Of Rulemaking

A committee chartered by the U.S. Department of Transportation that evaluates aviation consumer protections and makes recommendations to the Transportation Secretary will address at a public meeting this month the issue of airline ancillary fee disclosures. The meeting is scheduled ahead of DOT's planned notice of proposed rulemaking on airline ancillary fee information in sales channels.

DOT in October plans to file that notice of proposed rulemaking on "Enhancing Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees," according to its regulatory agenda.

The proposed rule notice, and the meeting that precedes it, likely will spark debate among airlines, travel agencies and distributors over access to ancillary content, commercial relationships and shopping displays.

DOT this week set the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee meeting for June 28-29 at its Washington, D.C., headquarters. It's a make-up from a March meeting that was postponed.

The meeting will serve as a forum for the public and industry representatives to air their views.

DOT had planned to host discussion on airline ticket refunds but tabled that topic, pending progress on an associated rulemaking.

"The Department still plans to discuss Enhancing Consumer Access to Airline Flight Information at the June meeting," according to a Federal Register notice this week.

This includes "examining what is meant by airline flight information and how best to ensure that consumers can more easily find a broader set of available flights," according to the notice.

Additionally, at the meeting, "the ACPAC will consider how best to ensure the disclosure of ancillary service fee information to consumers and whether the sharing of information between airlines and ticket agents is needed to ensure that consumers have access to ancillary fee information when they purchase air transportation from ticket agents."

DOT for years has contemplated such rules, marked by starts and stops under the prior two presidential administrations.

Last summer, the Biden administration ordered DOT to address several consumer initiatives as part of a sweeping executive order on competition in the U.S. economy.

That executive order directed DOT to take actions on airline ancillary fee disclosures, airline ticket refunds as well as the refundability of fees when checked bags are delayed or prepaid ancillaries, like Wi-Fi, aren't delivered.

When the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee tackled the ancillary disclosure topic at a 2019 meeting, the International Air Transport Association took aim at global distribution system contract provisions. That sparked recriminations from Travel Tech, a group that represents distribution systems and travel sellers.

A full agenda and any industry representatives presenting at this month's meeting have not been announced.