BUSINESS

Dept. of Transportation orders airline websites to show fees upfront

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Big changes are coming to airline websites. Starting Thursday, you will no longer have to wait until the end of the purchasing process to find out how much you really owe.

"They get you with those fees and taxes and it comes up quite a bit," said traveler John Stanley.

Stanley isn't alone. Travelers across the board bemoan those attention-grabbing bargain purchases that end up nearly doubling by the time people click "purchase."

"You see a sale and then click on it and then once you pay for it, there's all the extra fees and stuff you weren't expecting," said traveler Natalie Curtis.

But not anymore.

The Federal government considers the gotcha method of advertising misleading and beginning Thursday, the Department of Transportation is requiring airlines to include all taxes and fees in their advertised price for tickets.

The new rules are being imposed on behalf of the consumer, providing upfront disclosure for many of the fees that are typically hidden, like baggage fees and those pricey fuel surcharges. A sneaky method, some travel agents say, that has made them look like the expensive alternative.

"We quote the taxes with the taxes already built in," said Mount Vernon travel agent Betsy Mathes. "When you are working with the Internet, you don't see the taxes until the very end and all the fees."

So when is the cheapest time to buy a ticket? Contrary to popular belief, booking way in advance doesn't save the most money. ARC, an airfare tracking firm in Arlington, found that passengers got the cheapest tickets when they booked just six weeks before their flight.

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