SCHUMER: CONSUMERS MAY NOT BE INFORMED OF BAG FEES WHEN THEY BUY PLANE TICKETS THIS CHRISTMAS; PASSENGERS COULD ARRIVE AT AIRPORTS & BE SOCKED WITH COSTS; DOT'S NEW STANCE COULD ALLOW AIRLINES TO CHARGE CUSTOMERS EVEN MORE MONEY FOR CHECKED BAGS AT AIRPORTS & HIDE BAG FEES IN THE FINE PRINT; SENATOR PUSHES TO RESTORE RULE BEFORE BAG FEES TAKEOFF
USDOT Just Decided-- Out Of Thin Air -- To Scrap A Critical Consumer Protection That Would Have Forced Airlines to Disclose Bag Fees Upfront; Senator Worries, Without Disclosure, Bag Fee Increases Are On The Way
Latest Decision Is Made Even Worse By Recent USDOT’s Notices To Axe Other Consumer Protections Including Ones for Missing Or Damaged Wheelchairs; Meanwhile, Airlines Collected $7 Billion In Baggage Fees In 2016 Alone
Schumer: USDOTs Last-Minute Christmas Gift To Airlines Hurts Consumers & Simply Cannot Fly
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer recently called on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to reconsider its recent scrapping of a critical consumer protection that would have required airlines disclose the cost of added checked bag fees upfront when purchasing an airplane ticket. The Obama-era proposal would have provided greater transparency by protecting consumers from varied airline fees that can easily skyrocket the cost of a boarding ticket, however, just this week, USDOT decided to reverse course and abruptly cancelled the proposed rule.
“The Department of Transportation’s out-of-thin-air decision to scrap this consumer protection proposal is nothing more than a Christmas gift to the airlines who will now rake in even more profit,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “When it comes to purchasing a flight, consumers have the right to know the full cost of all fees upfront – that’s why this rule made so much sense. Without upfront fee disclosure, airlines could syphon even more from consumers’ pockets by actually raising bag fees, or at the very least hiding them in the fine print and that’s why I’m urging the feds to immediately reverse course and restore this commonsense passenger protection.”
This week the USDOT announced it will scrap a proposed consumer protection proposal that would have provided greater transparency among airlines by forcing airlines and travel agents to disclose baggage fees up front when someone is purchasing a ticket. Although airlines are currently required to disclose information about optional fees, consumer groups have argued that it is still quite difficult to compare overall prices and fees during the purchasing process, and depending on the size of one's family, checked bag fees can quickly add up.
In addition to halting the proposal to disclose baggage fees earlier in the booking process, the DOT also withdrew a proposal that would have required airlines to make public how much profit they make off of baggage fees and other ancillary revenues. In 2015 airlines generated $3.5 billion in baggage fees. However, the DOT justified withdrawing the proposal because the reporting process is too expensive for airlines. Additionally, and also troubling, is that this USDOT decision to conceal bag fees was decided shortly after the agency decided to axe or delay other consumer protections including requiring the airlines to disclose when they mishandle or break the wheelchairs of disabled passengers.
Schumer explained that baggage fees greatly vary among airlines. On domestic flights, some airlines charge customers $25 for their first checked bag whereas others charge between $25-$60. Alternatively, there are airlines that offer no fee for the first bag but then increase the fee for each additional bag. Those fees can be as much as $35 for the second bag and $150 for the third bag. Schumer said these price discrepancies and policies are costly for consumers and vary greatly which is why transparency is especially pertinent.
Schumer explained that without the list of added fees up front, consumers could be duped into paying more than they expected when purchasing a flight. For instance, while one airline’s base price for a flight might be cheaper than another airline’s base price, the cheaper flight could end up being more expensive once baggage fees are tacked on. Schumer said the just-scrapped proposal would have alleviated this problem. Schumer said, when it comes to purchasing flights online, tickets should be commensurable.
Schumer has been an outspoken advocate for airline passengers and continues to fight against policies that unfairly hurt consumers. For instance, Schumer successfully pushed back against efforts to reduce the size of carry-on luggage for travelers. Similarly, in 2010, Schumer successfully fought back against an airline proposal to charge for carry-on bags. Schumer reached out to airline chief executives and urged them to reconsider the idea, and airlines heeded the call.
According to media reports, airlines raked in over $7 billion in checked bag fees in 2016, a revenue that continues to climb each year on average.