Biden Administration Cracks Down on Junk Fees in the Airline Industry

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The new rules would require airlines to disclose the fees of certain service upfront and streamline the process for providing passengers with refunds.

The Biden Administration released a set of rules on Wednesday that would require airlines to confront “junk fees.”

“Passengers deserve to know upfront what costs they are facing and should get their money back when an airline owes them – without having to ask,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

These rules include requiring airlines to provide automatic cash refunds in instances where flights are significantly delayed or canceled, checked baggage is delayed or when ancillary services that were paid for are not provided.

The Department of Transportation said without this rule, consumers are left navigating a “cumbersome” process to receive a refund from an airline.

The DOT is also requiring airlines to disclose “junk fees” upfront. So, airlines and ticketing agencies have to inform customers of the prices for checked baggage, carry-ons, changing a reservation or canceling one.

Airlines for America, a trade group that represents some of the largest U.S. airlines, said that the industry already offers consumers a range of options.

“A4A passenger airlines—which are fierce competitors—offer transparency and vast choice to consumers from first search to touchdown. U.S. airlines are committed to providing the highest quality of service, which includes clarity regarding prices, fees and ticket terms,” A4A said in a statement.

President Biden has previously vowed to go after “junk fees” during his State of the Union speech in 2023. A cornerstone of his administration has been ramping up consumer protections in the airline industry.

The Department of Justice took a hawkish stance against consolidation in the airline industry when it blocked a merger between JetBlue and Spirit Airlines. And the DOT has released a passenger rights dashboard that tracks which airlines offer refunds under specific circumstances, along with free family seating.

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