Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

How do you book flights?

Do you go to a specific airline's site and commit yourself to finding the best deal?

Or do you go to some more wide-ranging site where you can compare flights and choose on the basis of whatever criteria matter most to you?

If the latter is the case, you're annoying the airlines.

This week, you see, they persuaded the government not to support a measure designed to look at how airlines distribute fare information. 

The airlines would prefer, you see, to stop their ever greater and more numerous nickel-and-diming fees from being featured on the websites where you actually do your comparison shopping.

You know, like Kayak, Expedia or Google Flights.

Now why would the airlines want to do that? Could it be that they want you to book with them and only later discover that you might have to pay $9 to secure an overhead bin on United?

You might conclude that the airlines are trying subterfuge because they put out a press release praising the government's refusal to allow deeper digging into airlines' practices.

Airlines for America, a lobbying group that represents many of the biggest U.S. airlines, including American, United, Southwest and Alaska, crowed: "The bill delivered a much-welcomed win for consumers by rejecting a heavy-handed proposal to regulate airline distribution practices that would force airlines to market, display and sell their products through third-party online travel agents."

Please feel free to chuckle at an airline lobby group lauding a (supposed) victory for consumers.

I fear what Airlines for America might mean is that now airlines can hope to stop Kayak and the like from displaying all their fees and, hip and hooray for airlines.

To support the suspicious side of the argument, airlines are even trying to reverse a requirement for them to publish their on-time and cancellation data while you're booking your flight. 

How is this all possibly a "a much-welcomed win for consumers"?

I asked several consumers and none welcomed it. I fear if I asked several million more, none would welcome it either.

So I contacted Airlines for America to ask for enlightenment. I will update, should I hear.

From the AFA press release, I can only deduce that it sees this as "a common-sense, consumer friendly approach to ensure that, no matter where consumers purchase their ticket, they are protected by the same standards of transparency and customer service."

It adds that this is an example of "the free market."

Airlines for America told Bloomberg that one of the great problems with third-party sites offering the full information about airlines' devious fees was that it adds "clutter and complexity to the booking screen."


Oddly, I fear that consumers rather like having all the information at their disposal. It makes the market seem more, well, free. 

Indeed, Kurt Alan Ebenhoch of the Air Travel Fairness Coalition -- which represents third-party sites and claims support from many consumer advocacy groups -- finds the airlines' move to be "anti-competitive."

"Whether it is censorship of flight and fare displays, introducing fees late in the purchase process or making it as inconvenient as possible to fly on more than one airline on a trip, it is all part of a larger, deliberate strategy to confuse, deceive and exhaust the flying public into paying the maximum amount possible, even when better options exist," he told me.

And then, well, he let the airlines have it, in a manner that so many individual consumers might like to as well:

Consumers who rely on independent third parties to comparison shop for travel are not interested in 'high standards of customer service' rhetoric from an industry with a recurring history of delay and cancellation-causing software failures, bungling the transportation of pets, crew scheduling problems, labor strife, hidden expenses, exorbitant change fees and overbooking practices that resulted in the violent removal of a passenger who refused to surrender the seat he paid for and was given because of the airline's inability to manage its operation.

Seemingly pausing for breath, he added:

To name just a few.

A life-addled mind might insist that this very much looks like airlines preferring only to sell though their own websites, so that they can reveal the true nature of their nickel-and-diming right at the end of the booking process. Or not at all, until it's too late.

But would that really sound like an airline? Wanting to get more money for itself, regardless of the discomfort to its customers?

I cannot confirm that Airlines for America's motto is Making Americans Freight Again.