Lawmakers and airlines square off over bag fees
With the busy holiday travel season in full swing, federal lawmakers, passenger rights advocates and airlines are squaring off in Congress over one of the thorniest issues in flying today: baggage fees.
But the bottom line is that you will probably get no reprieve from the fees any time soon.
A Louisiana senator proposed legislation last week that would allow airline passengers to check one bag for free on each flight.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu said the bill is meant to protect passengers from excessive fees.
The legislation would also guarantee that passengers can bring carry-on bags at no extra charge and get access to water and bathrooms on flights.
“Passengers have been nickeled and dimed for far too long and something has to be done about it," she said in a statement.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano recently suggested that airlines should let passengers check one bag for free to reduce the number of carry-on bags packed into the overhead bins. She said carry-on bags slow the screening process and increase the screening cost nationwide by $260 million a year.
More than 72% of air travelers said that the growing volume of carry-on bags is one of their top frustrations in a recent survey by the U.S. Travel Assn.
But the industry group that represents the nation’s airlines opposes Landrieu’s bill.
“Obviously we don’t think it’s appropriate for the government to regulate what services a private industry should offer to customers and at what price … especially since aviation was de-regulated in 1978," said Steve Lott, a spokesman for the Air Transport Assn.
Landrieu’s bill has been sent to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for a hearing.
Photo: An employee keeps and eye on luggage at John F. Kennedy Airport. Credit: Reuters