New airline rules make comparison shopping easier

Trying to figure out the real price of an airfare can be a frustrating process, but it’s about to get easier. This week, changes are taking places that will  require airlines be more upfront about the true cost of that ticket plus consumers will have 24 hours to make up their mind about a ticket. They are much needed changes that should make airline ticket shopping less of a game and a whole lot easier to truly comparison shop.

Here’s why disclosure is needed – a recent sale by one site said you could save $5 instantly. It listed the price as $248, but note the wording of the fine print. It says “total including fees excluding taxes.” Interesting. Why would the site include fees but exclude taxes other than to keep the price down?

I clicked through to see what the deal was all about as $5 is $5 in this economy. I’ll buy from a different site even to save that minimal amount. $248 was about the price I saw quoted on other sites. However, when I clicked through to the next page, I realized there really wasn’t a savings of $5. The price of the ticket was more than the other sites. Here’s what I saw on the next page.

The base price of $248 had an extra $66.20 attached to it for taxes and fees. I thought the fees were already included? Bottom line – it’s confusing and frustrates consumers. You shouldn’t have to click through and almost buy the ticket before you see the true price. That $5 discount really wasn’t much of a discount. I found the fare cheaper on other sites.

These new Department of Transportation rules should be the end of pricing issues like this.  Airlines won’t be able to publish ads that list government-imposed taxes and fees separately from the advertised fare. All those fees and taxes must be included in the advertised fare starting Thursday. However, it’s still unclear how the airlines will adjust. We’ll have to wait and see on Thursday.

24 hold policy
Starting today, you’re gaining other rights. You’ll now get 24 hours to make a decision about a fare. You no longer have to rush into booking something because you are afraid the price may change. You can hold a reservation without a payment or even cancel a fare without penalty for 24 hours after you make the reservation. If I were you, I wouldn’t book. I’d hold the fare and buy later because cancelling the fare may involve calling customer service which may take up a lot of time.  This rule only applies if you book or hold the trip one week or more prior to your flight’s departure.

Baggage fees
Ever wonder how much it’s going to cost to check a bag? Those fees will be disclosed with the fare quote. This disclosure is easy to miss as its worded differently on every site and doesn’t always make reference to baggage fees. The picture to the left shows you how one site displays the information. They included a hyperlink titled, “Additional airline fees may apply.” When you click on the link, you are told about the baggage fees. You get the screen below that includes a drop down box to choose your airline.

Another site displayed the information differently. See the photo below.

This airline site says “Additional bag charges may apply” which takes you to a screen about the baggage fees.

I don’t mind the differences in how baggage fees are disclosed as I think the bigger issue is the advertising of prices with taxes and fees. It will be interesting to see how the airlines follow that rule because it directly impacts your ability to quickly comparison shop. I think baggage fees are less of a factor.

Delays
Also, if there is a delay of 30 minutes or more airlines will have to promptly notify passengers. What this actually means remains to be seen. What’s promptly?

Some airlines are not happy about these changes, but it appears these changes will take effect for now.

What do you think of the changes? Click comment below.

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2 responses to “New airline rules make comparison shopping easier

  1. Great post. Informative. As you suggest, it may take a while before we understand the impact of all the rules but at least they’re trying to do SOMETHING.