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Enact a Clear and Fair Policy That Protects Consumers When Airlines Make Pricing Mistakes

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On May 8th, the Department of Transportation released a memo announcing it would stop enforcing the law that requires airlines to honor fares published in error.  In that memo, they lay out a vague and arbitrary new policy that places an unfair burden on the consumer while they consider new rules.

Full Text of Memo

There are 3 key problems with the policy:

1.  It explicitly allows the airline to cancel, without any notice, a passenger's ticket.  Up to the moment they leave the ground, a passenger's ticket could be canceled.

2.  While the policy requires airlines to "make the consumer whole" by refunding expenses the passenger has incurred, the policy requires no timeline for this reimbursal.   Even in cases where a passenger is "made whole" in a reasonable period of time, certain costs of travel cannot be reimbursed.  The amount of money that could make a passenger whole when they miss a wedding, family reunion, or even just well-earned vacation time can't be quantified.

3.   The policy assumes that users are able to determine mistake fares and are acting in bad faith.  As the largest aggregator of mistake fare data, we've seen many fares that appear to be mistakes that are simply heavily discounted.  The airline is able to determine, at any time after purchase, if a fare was offered in error.

The quality of the previous policy is a topic of debate but the interim policy shifts an unfair burden to the customer.  Air travel has become an industry where the airlines "hold all the cards" and should this policy be enacted permanently it would represent a meaningful loss for passengers of all kinds.


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