Travel websites worry Congress will doom their business with new proposals

Published 7:27 am Thursday, May 31, 2018

By Martin Moylan

MPR News/90.1 FM

At the Twin Cities airport, you’ll find a lot of bargain-hunting travelers who shop comparison sites to land the best airfares.

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Marcus Drayton of Roseville said it may take some work, but it can really pay off.

“It’s just the way it is,” he said. “It’s just like how you would check when you’re going for anything, right?”

Drayton is pretty happy with the fares he finds and the competition that helps keep ticket prices in check.

“You have marketers coming in and trying to come up with new models — break the traditional models. And you have mainstream airlines responding in kind. I think that’s what capitalism is all about,” Drayton said.

But Elaine Pierce of Big Sky, Mont., said she’s had some exasperating experiences with Expedia.

“I just wasn’t able to control my ticket. I wasn’t able to upgrade it, change it,” she said.

Congress is weighing measures designed to address complaints like that, including one that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is backing. The proposals, which vary in scope, would require travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity to give customers more information and control over tickets. The requirements would extend to matters such as seat assignments, refunds and baggage fees.

The big online ticket agents may not display baggage fees, for example, but the expense can add up. So what initially looks like the cheapest fare could be the most expensive after those charges are applied.