New law brings hidden airport fees out of hiding

January 23, 2012 8:03:34 PM PST
New regulations go into effect tomorrow that require the airlines to reveal some of the hidden fees and taxes they charge.

What we see is not always what we get when it comes to airline tickets. Here's how things will change beginning tomorrow.

Buying an airline ticket just got simpler. The advertised rate must include all the fees and taxes you pay.

"In the past, you had to look for fees, you had to look for surcharges, you had to look for all these add-ons in the gotcha," said noted travel rights attorney Al Anolik.

Here's an example: We found an $89 fare from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It's not until you click on the purchase button that you learn the price is actually $10 higher.

An airline trade group talks about what the new regulations mean.

"The change will be that when you do a search for your airfare, you will get the rolled up total price with airfare and taxes included," said Steve Lott with Airlines for America. "And why we have concerns is that this actually hides how much consumers are paying in taxes to the government."

Here are a few other changes. Baggage fees must be clearly disclosed. The new rules also prevent air carriers, agents or tour operators from increasing the price after taking a deposit, unless you agreed to it in advance in writing. Potential penalties for violations could be huge.

"That's $27,500 per seat times 148 seats times 238 seats," said Anolik. "That's big money."

Southwest, Spirit and Allegiant airlines sued in district court in Washington, D.C. to overturn the regulations. Those airlines declined to comment, but the airline trade group says the lawsuits raise some good issues.

"We're concerned that the airline industry is being singled out for some of these rules and regulations and we think that many consumers are smart enough to know that many products and services that they buy, the taxes will be added on at the register," said Lott.

The airlines say they will comply with the regulations.

Southwest, Allegiant and Spirit airlines had no comment for this story.