Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fare Transparency: Good for Consumers, Alarming to Spirit Airlines (and Other Carriers)

The look of airfares is going to change tomorrow.

No, they're not going up. But they may look that way, thanks to a smart new law. The Department of Transportation is now requiring that carriers advertise their fares with taxes included. So no more finding a great fare, and clicking on an ad only to find that with taxes and fees, its out of your price range.

Most consumers are darn pleased about this new fare transparency.

The airline industry? Not so much.

In fact, yesterday Spirit Airlines sent out a warning letter to its customers playing on everyone's most paranoid, big government fears. It read (in big, bold black and red type): "WARNING: New government regulations require us to HIDE taxes in your fares." Spirit goes on to say that including the tax in the fare will allow the government to up it without anyone noticing.

Its a rich conceit, especially coming from an airline that's made millions hiding its extra fees from travelers (everything from fees for carrying bags onto planes to fees for getting a ticket printed at the airline counter).

At the end of it, Spirit suggests that travelers contact their Senators and Congressmen to complain about the new regulations. A link is provided to making do so easier.

So do what I did: click on the link and use it to thank Department of Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood for introducing some sanity into the way airfares are advertised. The new regulations are a great improvement and will make booking a vacation a less fraught challenge than it used to be.

Other long-awaited regulations that go into effect tomorrow:
  • Airlines must print, in a prominent place on your reservation, the cost of baggage fees
  • Customers now have the right to cancel fares within 24-hours of purchase with no penalty
  • Baggage rules and fees won't change on code-shared flights from airline to airline if that flight originates or ends in the US
  • After you've paid for your ticket, you can no longer be charged additional fees later for that ticket. Also, the bag fees that were in effect when you booked will be the ones you'll be charged, even if they've gone up in the intervening months.
Hooray for good governance!


  1. Spirt's email had to be the funniest I received in a year. One more quote,"As the transparency leader and most consumer-friendly airline, Spirit"

    For anybody who has tried to navigate that website , knows what a joke that statement is.
    I know that PR people do spin at companies, but it seems lately some are living in opposite land. I should of thank them though for really making me laugh Travel Rob

  2. So true Rob! Yeah, it was hilarious and disturbing all at once

  3. Great suggestion! I e-mailed both of my Senators and my Representative. Hopefully the e-mails from those of us who are thrilled will outnumber any e-mails from uninformed customers who fall for Spirits ill disguised plea to continue pulling the wool over their customers eyes.

  4. Thanks Melissa! Glad you let your reps know you approve!

  5. Pauline,
    as a follow up to your post. Senator Barbara Boxer has something to say to Spirit Airlines as well. This is a post currently on Huffington Post/Travel

  6. Thanks Scott! Pauline

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