Senate: Airlines Need More Fee Transparency

Airlines made more than $38 Billion from extra, ancillary fees in 2014, which was a 20% increase over the previous year. $38 Billion! That prompted a meme which has been all over the internet for the last few months: “If a 747 can carry the space shuttle, then I call B.S. on overweight luggage fees.”

Well now the Senate has become involved, and the Commerce Committee staff put out a report last week recommending more transparency in airline operations, pricing, and especially the ancillary fees. There are four main subjects that the report discusses: 1) Ancillary fees are a basic component of major airline business models; 2) Ancillary fees have increased in amount and variety during the past six years; 3) Change and cancellation fees are not transparent and are excessive; and 4) Seating charts mislead consumers into believing that they need to pay for reservations.

Ultimately, the Commerce Committee staff’s report recommends the following:

1. Ancillary fees should be disclosed as early as possible in the booking process in a standardized format;
2. Checked baggage and carry-on baggage fees should have a clear connection to the costs incurred by the airline;
3. Airlines should promptly refund fees for any checked bags that are delayed more than 6 hours on a domestic flight;
4. Airline change fees should be limited to a reasonable amount tied to lead time prior to departure and a maximum percentage of the original fair paid;
5. Airlines should provide clear disclosures that “preferred seat” charges are optional. Airline and travel websites should have a clear and conspicuous link to the Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection website; and
6. The Department of Transportation should update its aviation consumer protection website to improve the consumer experience

Do you think the Senate’s 6 recommended changes will help transparency and end the extra-fee ripoffs?

Consumer Traveler’s original article can be found here, and the full report can be found here.

Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel.

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