A coalition urging the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to force airlines to distribute their ancillary-services fees across all distribution channels says it collected more than 50,000 signatures on a consumer petition.
The MadAsHellAboutHiddenFees.com coalition, initiated by the American Society of Travel Agents, the Business Travel Coalition and the Consumer Travel Alliance, plans to present the petition and signatures to the DOT, which is seeking comments on a rule to require airlines to make their fee data available to global distribution systems and travel agents.
In a conference call with the press this afternoon, Kevin Mitchell, BTC chairman, said the coalition also plans to expand its activities beyond the U.S., and will bring its message to Canada and Europe.
Mitchell said the coalition will communicate with European Commission legislators as they "tackle the [fee-transparency] issue in the coming year."
In addition, the coalition intends to conduct a Mad As Hell tour in major U.S. airline hubs as it meets with travel agents and travel managers about the issue.
Paul Ruden, ASTA's senior vice president of legal and industry affairs, said the coalition is not trying to force the airlines to do business with anyone they don't want to do business with.
However, contrary to the coalition's aims, many airlines have chosen to keep their fee data exclusively within their own websites, call centers and airline ticket counters.
Ruden said, however, if an airline already is distributing its fares through a GDS, then the DOT should require the airline to distribute its ancillary services through that GDS, as well.
Mitchell added that many airlines currently are only providing travel agents and travel managers with "half of the information" and that is "unworkable" for the industry.
Citing the DOT's imposition of tarmac delay rules in 2009, Consumer Travel Alliance President Charlie Leocha said "no one can doubt that we have a kinder, gentler DOT," and that DOT Secretary Ray LaHood is "definitely on the side of the consumer."
Leocha and others met with LaHood this week about the fees issue.
Mitchell contrasted the current DOT with a department which was "not active" during the Bush administration.
The coalition sees all this as a cause for optimism.