Markey bill targets 'ridiculous' airline fees

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Airlines often charge passengers a fee to check an additional bag, but U.S. Sen. Ed Markey doesn't buy that it costs the airline much to put the bag onto the plane and he joined colleagues from Connecticut, Illinois and Tennessee to unveil legislation aimed at scaling back airline charges.

Airlines worldwide took in about $110 billion in fee revenue in 2019, up 400% from the $22 billion in 2010 fee revenue, Markey said. And while he said the issue predates the pandemic, Markey said the fees are especially burdensome as many families prepare to fly for the first time since the pandemic began.

"If a traveler needs to check a bag, that's a fee. If a traveler wants real legroom, that's a fee. If a parent wants to change their seats just to sit near their children, that's a fee. If a traveler's plan changes, as they often do, that's a fee," Markey said. He added, "We can no longer allow these fees to remain as high as the planes passengers are traveling on."

Filed with Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Illinois Rep. Jesús García and Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act would give the U.S. Department of Transportation the authority to regulate airline fees and "prohibit air carriers from imposing fees that are not reasonable and proportional to the costs incurred by the air carriers."

"To explain why proportionality matters, think about this: Does it really cost an airline $100 more to add one additional suit bag? Of course not," Markey said.

Markey and Blumenthal both focus on consumer protection issues in the U.S. Senate and previously filed their FAIR Fees Act in 2016 and 2017. Blumenthal said Thursday that airlines should "do the right thing" and scale back fees even if the legislation does not become law because "they have been aided last year in a way that very few industries were, in magnitude and method, through the pandemic aid they received."

Passenger air carriers got $25 billion as part of the CARES Act, $15 billion for a payroll support program in a December 2020 appropriations bill and $14 billion in the American Rescue Plan Act, according to the U.S. Treasury.


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