Last updated: 02:25 PM ET, Thu July 23 2015

Congressman Proposes Cap On Airline Bag Fees

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | July 23, 2015

Congressman Proposes Cap On Airline Bag Fees

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How would you like to pay less than $5 to check your bags the next time you fly?

If one Congressman has his way, you will.

U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation Oversight Subcommittee, has introduced legislation to cap airline baggage handling fees to a maximum of $4.50.

Coincidentally, that’s the same current amount of the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), which is what airports charge customers to help fund infrastructure improvements – a fact not lost on Mica.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Mica said through his office, adding that the baggage fees are not included in the ticket price, limiting funds that go into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund which finances airport safety and air traffic control systems and equipment.

Proponents of raising the PFC to $8.50 in the next funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration have been met with stiff resistance by the airlines, which say passengers shouldn’t have to pay yet another fee on top of myriad other taxes and expenses.

But Mica said his bag fee proposal is “fair and equitable since airports have been held to that fee level for handling passengers at the same $4.50 limitation by law for the past 15 years.  During that decade and a half, most major carriers have imposed dramatically increased baggage and service fees.”

Virtually every airline charges bag fees, starting at $25 for the first bag and moving up from there. Most every airline also charges for bags that exceed 50 pounds.

The 26 largest U.S. airlines took in a combined $1.6 billion in fees in the first quarter of this year, up 7.4 percent from the same period last year and the highest amount for a Q1 since the Bureau of Transportation Statistics first started keeping such records on ancillary fees in 2008.

“It’s time to bring some fairness to the soaring fees that airlines are charging consumers for basic services,” Mica said.

In a statement provided to The Hill, which chronicles Washington D.C. politics, Airlines For America called Mica’s proposed legislation “a misguided attempt to increase the passenger facility charge... that the airports would like to needlessly increase by 90 percent. Congressman Mica knows well that the government stopped dictating air travel pricing back in 1978, when it cost nearly 61 percent more (adjusted for inflation) for people to fly than it did last year. Airlines support infrastructure investment, having spent some $70 billion on projects that are either completed, underway or approved at the nation’s 30 largest airports since 2008. What’s good for travelers is to not nearly double the tax they pay to step foot in an airport when airports have more than enough resources to invest in infrastructure today. That is why airports can’t point to a single project that’s not moving forward due to a lack of resources."

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