Last updated: 02:30 PM ET, Tue April 12 2016

Senator Makes Another Attempt to Limit Airline Fees

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | April 12, 2016

Senator Makes Another Attempt to Limit Airline Fees

PHOTO: U.S. Senator Edward Markey. (via Flickr/Senate Democrats)

The U.S. Senate is continuing to debate the FAA reauthorization bill. Thus far, attempts to tackle what many fliers consider the worst aspect of the air travel industry - excessive fees - have not been successful.

Now, Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey is proposing something called the FAIR Fees Act. FAIR is an acronym. The full name of the amendment is: Forbid Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous Fees Act.

Markey didn't mince words while explaining what he wanted to achieve with the amendment: “We need some reason, we need some protection. We need some way to say that there’s an airline passenger bill of rights; that they just can’t be tipped upside down and have money shaken out of their pockets.”

Airlines, of course, do not want to have any sort of limit on what they can charge. They contend that the free market will decide what fees are acceptable and what fees are excessive.

That might seem like a logical argument, but it is also fair to say that airline fees have increased dramatically over the past few years. A study commissioned by the Senate's commerce committee, which is responsible for the current FAA reauthorization bill, showed that baggage fees have risen by 70 percent since 2009 and have remained high even though fuel prices have fallen to record lows.

Markey is not suggesting that airlines should do away with fees altogether. Rather, he wants to stop the trend of fees being used to make profits. The amendment would limit fees to the amount needed to cover airlines' costs.
This would, most likely, lead to a rise in airfares. Airline shareholders are now expecting huge profits to continue (as long as fuel prices remain low). If fees are curbed, airlines will have to raise fares in order to keep Wall Street content.

Markey's FAIR Fees Act has already had a chance to make it into the FAA bill. It failed to get majority approval during a vote in the commerce committee. However, it got very close (voting finished 12-12, just short of the majority needed).

Markey has said that he plans to bring the issue up again when the bill is debated before the whole Senate.
While it seems unlikely that Markey's amendment will make it into the bill in its current form, there could be more support for requirements that would force airlines to include fees in advertised ticket prices. This would at least give fliers more information about the overall cost of flying.


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