U.S. Airlines File Lawsuit Against DOT Over Mandated Disclosure of Junk Fees

Major airlines in the United States are suing the Department of Transportation (DOT) over its new rule requiring carriers to be transparent over so-called “junk fees.” 

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines, and Alaska Airlines, along with lobbying group Airlines for America filed a suit against the DOT, asking an appeals court to overturn the rule, Reuters reported. The airlines argue the rule would confuse passengers and its “attempt to regulate private business operations in a thriving marketplace is beyond its authority.”

“Airlines go to great lengths to make their customers knowledgeable about these fees,” Airlines for America told The Associated Press. “The ancillary fee rule by the Department of Transportation will greatly confuse consumers who will be inundated with information that will only serve to complicate the buying process.”

The DOT finalized its new rule last month, requiring airlines to tell travelers up front what they charge for a first or second checked bag, a carry-on bag, or for canceling or changing a reservation. The fees cannot be displayed through a hyperlink.

At the time, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the rule would “save passengers over half a billion dollars a year in unnecessary or unexpected fees by holding airlines accountable for being transparent with their customers.”

For its part, the DOT vowed to “vigorously defend our rule protecting people from hidden junk fees and ensuring travelers can see the full price of a flight before they purchase a ticket.”

In addition to this price transparency rule, the DOT has also spelled out when airlines must refund passengers for canceled or significantly delayed flights. That new rule, which goes into effect on Oct. 28, requires airlines to automatically refund travelers when their flights are canceled or significantly changed and the traveler has not accepted alternative transportation or travel credits.

Southwest Airlines, which did not join the lawsuit, recently launched a DOT-mandated compensation program, awarding $75 or more in transferrable vouchers to travelers who reach their destination at least three hours late due to an airline-caused disruption or cancellation.

Southwest told the AP the new fee transparency rule does not really affect them since they allow passengers to check up to two bags for free and have never charged extra cancellation or change fees.

“Overall, we support every airline’s right to price its products but believe fees should be clearly and consistently disclosed, so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions,” Southwest told the AP.

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