In a timely move as travelers prepare to go home for Thanksgiving and take to the skies for the winter holidays, Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., has introduced legislation to protect travelers from excessive fees and declining quality of airline service.
The Airline Passenger BASICS – or Basic Airline Standards to Improve Customer Satisfaction - Act would require airlines to allow passengers one checked and one carry-on bag for free. Sen. Landrieu also plans to introduce the Fair Airline Industry Revenue (FAIR) Act to impose additional fees on airlines that do not comply, according to the Senator's office.
“When an airline advertises a flight, that is how much it should cost, plain and simple. Passengers should not be charged additional fees for checked or carry-on baggage, drinkable water or other reasonable requests. Air travel can be a stressful experience for many reasons, but unfair fees for basic amenities should not be one of them,” said Sen. Landrieu. “Passengers have been nickeled and dimed for far too long and something has to be done about it. Air carriers should be required to provide a minimum standard of service to their passengers or face additional fees – that is what the Airline Passenger BASICS Act and the FAIR Act will do.”
Airlines have started charging fees for almost every service, including checked and carry-on baggage, pillows, cancellations or reservation changes and snacks. In 2008 and 2009, airlines collected $4 billion in change/cancellation fees and $3.9 billion in checked baggage fees, according to Landrieu.
“Many airlines consider checking a bag not to be a right, but a privilege - and one with a hefty fee attached. The Airline Passenger BASICS Act will guarantee passengers one checked bag without the financial burden of paying a fee, or the headache of trying to fit everything into a carry-on,” said Sen. Landrieu.
Earlier this year, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano testified before the Subcommittee on Homeland Security - which Sen. Landrieu chairs - that bag check fees have increased Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening costs by $260 million a year.
These additional costs are the direct result of airlines’ checked baggage fees and taxpayers are being forced to pick up the tab, Landrieu says. According to the TSA, the number of checked bags has decreased by 20 percent since 2009, leading to increased volume of carry-on bags and longer, slower moving lines at the security checkpoint. In a recent survey released by the U.S. Travel Association, more than 72 percent of respondents said that the increased volume of carry-on bags is one of their top frustrations with the flying experience.
The Airline Passenger BASICS Act requires airlines to provide one free checked bag within weight limits, and guarantees certain minimum standards for passengers, such as access to potable water and bathroom facilities, as well as the ability to carry on bags and personal items. The FAIR Act would increase airline security fees for any airline that has a policy in place which charges passengers for their first checked bag or their first carry-on bag.