ASTA members are warned to following the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Full-Price and Code-Share advertising rules. Failure to follow these rules may result in steep civil penalties.
According to DOT’s Full-Fare advertising rule, airline fare advertisements, including advertisements of tour packages containing an air component, must state the full price to be charged the consumer. DOT only allows certain government-imposed taxes and fees, such as passenger facility charges (PFCs), international departure taxes, and security fees, to be stated separately in advertisements, and in such cases their existence and amount must be clearly indicated in the advertisement so the consumer can determine the full-fare to be paid. When noted separately, DOT requires these taxes and fees to be individually named, such as “September 11th Security Fee.” In addition, advertisers are required to disclose if an advertised one-way fare is actually available only as part of a round-trip ticket.
Travel agents and tour operators should note that (1) government-imposed taxes that are assessed as a percentage of the fare price, such as the US Federal Transportation Excise Tax, and (2) airline-imposed surcharges, such as fuel and holiday surcharges, and (3) travel agent service fees in online fare displays, must be included in the base advertised price and cannot be stated separately in advertisements. Note: A limited exception exists for agency service fees, which may be listed separately in online displays so long as a total price, including all taxes, fees, and other charges, appears on the same screen with the fare. Additional details can be found in DOT’s fare advertising guidance letters online at: http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/rules/20011219.htm .
Finally, DOT’s code-share disclosure rule requires agents to disclose code-share arrangements when advertising. The specific terms of the rule require advertisements to: “prominently disclose that the advertised service may involve travel on another carrier,” “clearly indicate the nature of the service in reasonably sized type,” and “identify all potential transporting carriers … by corporate name and by any other name under which that service is held out to the public.” Travel sellers are also required to disclose code-share arrangements in other written and oral communications with consumers. For complete details, check out ASTA’s eLibrary at: http://www.asta.org/ELibrary/content.cfm?ItemNumber=2373 .