Senator and trade group urge airlines to ease up on checked-bag charges, but so far airlines aren't budging.
Federal lawmakers, passenger rights advocates and airlines are squaring off over one of the thorniest issues in flying today: baggage fees.
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. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., 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.
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“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 let passengers check one bag for free to reduce the number of carry-on bags packed into 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 percent 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 deregulated 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.
Meanwhile, a passenger rights group has sought at least a temporary break from baggage fees.
The Washington, D.C.-based Association. for Airline Passenger Rights issued a challenge last week, urging the nation’s airlines to temporarily waive baggage fees from Nov. 23 until Dec. 31.
Brandon M. Macsata, executive director of the group, said he hoped the airlines would waive the fees as a goodwill gesture toward passengers. After all, he said, a holiday break from baggage fees would not bankrupt the airlines.
But no airline responded to the challenge. “We haven’t even been acknowledged by the airlines,” Macsata said. “I expect that they probably see too many dollar signs during the holidays.”