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GAO recommends uniform disclosure of airline fees

Sunday, July 18, 2010; F03

Washington takes on airline fees

It's time passengers were made fully aware of all those extra fees airlines have started charging: That's the bottom line of a General Accountability Office report issued last Wednesday.

Faced with declining revenues, airlines now charge for such services as checking luggage, early boarding, seat selection and meals. Information on some of these fees is available only through airline Web sites and is not uniformly disclosed through the various channels travelers use to buy tickets, including aggregators such as Expedia and Travelocity and travel agencies, the GAO said. But all ticket purveyors should be required to disclose the fees in a clear and uniform manner, the office recommended.

In the first quarter of calendar year 2010, airlines reported collecting $1.3 billion in baggage fees and reservation change and cancellation fees -- a 13 percent increase from the same quarter last year.

David A. Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association of America, which represents the industry, said that airlines already disclose their fees and that the aggregators and travel agents also have access to them. As for the fees themselves, he said the airlines need them to return to profitability and to avoid having to raise fares.

"Nobody tells Giant how much to charge for ketchup. Nobody tells movie theaters how much to charge for popcorn, soda and Jujubes, and they're telling the airlines how much to charge for their services?" he said. "The industry was deregulated for a reason."

Travel ticker

Starting July 20, Amtrak is expanding service between Washington and Richmond, offering five morning departures from Richmond and six afternoon and evening departures from Washington. The new schedule is available at http://www.amtrakvirginia.com.

Reporting: Nancy Trejos. Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: cogo@washpost.com. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071

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