“Big Brother” could be taking to the skies across America, causing airline ticket prices to soar for some passengers – and fall for others – as major carriers eye a new pricing platform.
However, in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for an investigation into ways airlines could mine customers’ personal data in order to determine the price of a seat on a flight.
“I am requesting that the FTC investigate the person-specific pricing technology being considered or in use by the airlines and others in the broader travel and hospitality industries, like hotels, rental cars and vacation packaging, and determine whether it violates the privacy of deeply personal consumer data,” the senator wrote in the letter.
Schumer cited “dynamic pricing” technology being developed for airlines that could gather data through internet protocol (IP) addresses from consumers’ wireless devices and computers. The insights collected from a user’s unique IP address – a website they visit or their location – could allow for the price-setting based on information such as a person’s income or where they live, he said.
“I believe it is never too early for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ask poignant and purposeful questions that can help protect and inform consumers from unfair practices – especially when this particular type of data mining could be so easily replicated,” Schumer wrote.
This isn’t the first time Schumer has defended the consumer when it comes to the airline industry. The New York Democrat criticized air carriers who began charging customers for using the aircraft’s overhead luggage bins if they purchased a “Basic Economy” ticket, particularly after American Airlines instituted the policy last year.
Schumer also asked the Federal Aviation Administration in 2016 to require a standard for seat size and legroom since “airlines are cruising on record profits, all while hundreds of passengers are crammed into smaller and smaller seats with less and less legroom.”
Airlines for America, the trade organization representing major U.S. air carriers, did not return FOX Business’ request for comment at the time of publication.
Airlines for America, the trade organization representing major U.S. air carriers, said with competition within the industry being so fierce, consumers have access to more routes and lower fares than ever before. However, the group criticized government involvement in airfare pricing.
“The last time the government was involved in pricing, traveling by plane was a luxury afforded only to those Americans who could pay the costly government-imposed airfares … Government-set pricing ends badly for consumers,” Airlines for America spokesperson Alison McAfee told FOX Business.