Larsen Introduces Legislation to Increase Airfare Transparency, Protect Consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), the top-Ranking Democrat on House Aviation Subcommittee, has introduced the Know Before You Fly Act, legislation aimed at boosting consumer protections for air travelers.

Larsen, who introduced the legislation yesterday alongside Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04), unveiled H.R. 1420 in a hearing of the House Aviation Subcommittee which featured Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden as a key witness.

“Unexpected fees and lengthy delays are two surefire ways to ruin someone’s trip,” said Larsen. “By requiring airlines to be more transparent about baggage fees and how they will help passengers affected by large-scale network meltdowns, this bill would institute long-overdue consumer protections for folks who fly.”

H.R. 1420 would direct more transparency from airlines in terms of what services will be provided to air travelers during mass flight delays and cancellations resulting from computer network failures, as well as require airlines to inform passengers about any baggage and ancillary fees at the front end of the transaction.

In 2015 and 2016, numerous U.S. airline computer network failures delayed or cancelled tens of thousands of flights, stranding millions of travelers at airports across the country. The Know Before You Fly Act will guarantee travelers affected by widespread network disruptions that delay or cancel flights know what relief – such as food, hotel vouchers, or seats on another airline – they can expect from airlines before purchasing a ticket.

U.S. airlines have surged to record profitability in recent years, bolstered in part by their assessment of ancillary charges. In 2015 alone, airlines collected $6.8 billion in bag fees and reservation change fees. The Trump administration has held up a Department of Transportation rulemaking that tightens requirements on airlines’ disclosure of ancillary fees. Larsen’s bill would codify the existing requirement that airlines and ticket agents must disclose and provide a list of checked and carry-on bag fees before customers purchase a ticket.

In addition, the bill directs the Federal Aviation Administration to improve its process for collecting and analyzing reports of potentially hazardous fume events in airplane cabins.