Members of Congress and consumer advocacy groups are turning on the heat on airlines to disclose their various baggage fees at the time tickets are purchased. In early December, the United States Department of Transportation announced that officials were reviewing current rules that allow airlines to hide such fees; however, the review did not succeed in overturning this situation, thereby leaving passengers in the dark with regard to the charges they may suddenly encounter when they arrive at the airport to check in for their flights.
Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chuck Schumer reacted immediately as they voiced their displeasure over the decision made by the DOT. These two senior Senators have vowed to fight against what they consider to be an obfuscation of fees that benefits airlines while leaving passengers in the dark. The fees have allowed major air carriers such as Delta and American Airlines to lower their base fees in an effort to compete against budget flight providers such as JetBlue and Spirit Airlines.
Towards the end of the Obama administration, the DOT was prepared to force airlines to disclose all their fees through a new rule that had been drafted and was in the final stages of approval. Shortly after President Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House, incoming DOT officials quickly moved to stop this approval until a new review could be conducted.
Ancillary fees are estimated to produce billions of dollars for U.S. airlines on an annual basis. Special meals, upgrades, seat selection, and baggage fees have become extremely profitable for the air travel industry, which explains why lobby groups have been actively involved in suppressing the Obama rule. During the Bush administration, consumer advocacy groups pushed for more transparency in terms of fee disclosure, and this effort resulted in the drafting of a proposed rule that faced considerable pressure during the two terms served by former President Obama.
The short statement issued by the DOT in support of their decision explained that the public would not benefit too much from the proposed disclosure. This explanation did not sit well with passenger advocacy organizations, which called on Congress to pressure the Trump administration into enacting transparency measures.
Senator Schumer was the first to speak out against the DOT’s resolution; he was later joined by Senator Blumenthal as well as Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, who jointly issued a statement vowing to take the side of passengers and push the DOT to conduct another review.