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Unless a Strong Public Protest Stops Him, A First-Term Congressman is About to Abolish a Requirement for Honest Travel Advertising

     A very junior, Tea Party congressman, Carlos Curbelo, representing a district in Miami/Dade County, has used his position on a transportation committee to insert an amendment into the annual authorization of funds for the Federal Aviation Authority. The amendment would eliminate the requirement that airlines and tour operators include government taxes and fees in the airfares they advertise to the public.
     A strong public protest could possibly thwart his misguided efforts.
     It is exactly three years since the Department of Transportation adopted a regulation requiring airlines and any tour operator advertising airfares to include government taxes and fees in the airfares they list. Prior to this action, airlines were notorious for headlining a low-ball airfare—like "$99 each way between New York and Bermuda"—when they knew full well that passengers actually had to pay a tax-included $299 for the round-trip between those locations. This cynical attempt to play "bait-and-switch" used to mislead would-be passengers about the projected cost of their trip.
     That regulation has now been in existence for three years, and as best I know, it has occasioned no outrage on the part of anyone. As consumers, we are better off knowing the bad news right off, instead of belatedly learning about extra costs after we had committed to make the trip. Are you aware of any public demand that the airlines be spared that requirement? Could anyone other than an airline. tour operator or rich travel CEO be anxious to pull the wool over consumers' eyes?
     So what explains Congressman Carlos Curbelo's action in trying to eliminate the requirement of advertising tax-included airfares? I may be overly suspicious (I really don't know for certain), but I recently paid a visit to the list of contributors to the congressman's election campaign (a Republican, he defeated a Democratic incumbent by a narrow four percentage points in 2014).
     And sure enough, there was an impressive list of aviation-associated donors, including various other fat-cat supporters of his election (Mickey Arison, the major owner of Carnival Cruises, was one such contributor; Richard Fain, president of Royal Caribbean Cruises, was another). Is it possible that Congressman Curbelo is here conferring a benefit on major players in the travel industry, whose interests are often opposed to those of the traveling consumer?
     A strong public protest may yet result in cancelling out that outrageous amendment that would do away with an important protection of the average traveler. Write to your representative in Congress, and ask them to block Curbelo's ploy.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo