WASHINGTON — Airlines would have to improve disclosure of fees for services such as checked bags, carry-on items and advance-seat assignment under a consumer-protection rule the Transportation Department proposed Wednesday.
"Knowledge is power, and our latest proposal helps ensure consumers have clear and accurate information when choosing among air transportation options," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
The rule is the third in a series from December 2009 and April 2011 that raised penalties for long tarmac delays and that required airlines to announce full fares including taxes the first time they advertise a ticket price.
Airlines fought the earlier rules and are pushing legislation in Congress to overturn the full-fare advertising rule. The airline lobbying group, Airlines for America, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under the proposal, airlines and ticket agents would be required to disclose fees for basic services such as first and second checked bags, carry-on items and seat assignments at all points of sale. The department contends that fees now sometimes simply listed on a website leave travelers unable to understand the total cost of a ticket before buying it.
The proposal would also expand the airlines that must report information to the department about how many times their flights are late, how many times they sell too many tickets for a flight and how many times they mishandle bags.
The expansion will cover Spirit Airlines and regional airlines that operate flights for major airlines.
The proposal would also:
• Require large-volume travel agents to adopt minimum customer service standards such as responding promptly to customer complaints and holding reservations for 24 hours without payment.
• Require airlines and ticket agents to disclose the airlines actually providing flights, under code-share arrangements, on initial itinerary displays on their websites.
• Prohibit travel agents from ranking flights of certain carriers above others without disclosing the bias in any presentation of carrier schedules, fares, rules, or availability.
"The proposal we're offering today will strengthen the consumer protections we have previously enacted and raise the bar for airlines and ticket agents when it comes to treating travelers fairly," Foxx said.
Implementing the rule is at least months away and the proposals could be changed. The department will collect public comment for 90 days.