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EU Flyers Nab a Win for Airfare Transparency

(CN) - Airline passengers got a belated Christmas gift from the EU high court, which ordered Air Berlin to show all final ticket prices on its booking website.

The ruling stems from legal action brought by a German consumer group over the way Air Berlin displays fares on its booking website. Once a prospective passenger selects date and departure and arrival points, the airline shows the final ticket price including taxes and fees - but only for connections preselected by the airline or clicked on by the customer.

The consumer group argued that Air Berlin's practice does not comply with EU law, which requires full price transparency from the beginning of the booking process. Both a German court and appeals court agreed, prompting the airline to take its case to Germany's highest court.

That court asked the Court of Justice of the European Union for its interpretation of the law. And in an opinion issued Thursday, the EU high court again pointed to the clear wording of the regulation - that "the final price to be paid is at all times to be indicated" including taxes, fees, fuel surcharges and other unavoidable add-ons - regardless of whether the consumer clicks on the flight or not.

"The court has already had occasion to point out that it is evident from both the title of the law and the wording thereof that that provision seeks to ensure that there is information and transparency with regard to the prices for air services and that, consequently, it contributes to safeguarding protection of customers having recourse to those services," the Luxembourg-based court wrote.

"It thus follows that the obligation imposed on air carriers 'at all times' to indicate the final price to be paid is necessary in order to enable customers to compare effectively the prices for air services of different air carriers, in accordance with the objective that it should be possible effectively to compare prices for air services, pursued by the law," the 5-page opinion continued.

And the rule applies to all the ways an airline can publish its fares, including within a matrix or table, the court concluded.

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