Ga. legislator pursues ‘transparent’ airfares

Average airfare inches up to $381

The average price of an airline ticket for travel within the U.S. rose by just $1 last year, although prices are still modestly higher than they were five years ago.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday that the average domestic airfare rose to $381 in the fourth quarter of 2013, a 0.3 percent increase from a year earlier.

The government said that the highest average fares were in Huntsville, Ala., at $528, and the lowest were $249 in Long Beach, Calif.

The figures, which are adjusted for inflation, mostly count round-trip fares, but about one-fourth are one-way trips if that’s what the passenger bought. Taxes are included, but not fees.

Associated Press

Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Graves, as a co-sponsor of the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, finds himself in a dustup between consumer advocates and the airlines.

The bill would change how airline ticket prices are advertised. It passed out of a committee April 9, but would need approval by the House of Representatives and Senate. The act would essentially shift back to the way airfares were advertised by airlines more than two years ago — listed without showing fees and taxes. Only during the purchasing process did buyers learn what the total cost would be.

Graves says including the fees and charges in a single advertised costs allows the government to hide the cost of taxes from buyers.

“The cost of airline tickets will never be transparent as long as the Department of Transportation requires airlines to hide taxes, surcharges, and fees from consumers,” he writes on his website.

Websites such as Travelocity break down the costs so buyers can see charges outside the cost of the seat.

Airlines have voiced strong support for the bill.

Consumer advocates say the law would allow airlines to lure buyers in with deceptively low prices, and they wouldn’t know about the full costs unless they read the fine print.

“In short, the bill would dupe us into thinking fares are cheaper than they are,” writes Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate and editor at large for National Geographic Traveler.