Spirit Airlines' recent decision to charge airline passengers a $45 fee for carry-on baggage is likely to set off a stampede of copycat decisions, according to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) who wants federal action to avoid other airlines imposing similar charges.
“For years, the airline industry has struggled to confront declining profits as consumers in a tough economy seek the most cost effective way to travel,” Schumer’s office said in a statement. “ During this tough economic time, the airline industry has sought to keep ticket prices low while maintaining their bottom line. In order to do so, the airline industry has continued to add supplemental fees to airline travel—fees which consumers have begrudgingly tolerated thus far. In the last few years, airlines have added fees for checked baggage, seat assignments in the coach cabin, in-flight entertainment headsets, peanuts, and even pillows. The latest fee that the airline industry is seeking to impose is pushing travelers to the tipping point.”
Schumer urged Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to close a loophole in current airline regulations that have airlines charging customers for bringing aboard even one piece of carry-on luggage. The Senator aslos has proposed a new administrative rule that would define carry-on baggage for air travelers as a “reasonable necessity” in order to help keep carry-on baggage free for fliers and keep other airlines at bay from passing similarly outrageous fees.
“Airline passengers have always had the right to bring a carry-on bag without having to worry about getting nickel and dimed by an airline company,” Schumer said. “The Treasury Department needs to close the loophole that encourages this abusive practice and rein in these fees.
“These fees will have a heavy burden on middle-class families trying to take their family on a summer vacation," the statement continued. "Families with children almost always need a piece of carry-on luggage in order to ensure that they have everything they need, like medicine and other emergency supplies, readily accessible. These new fees will not only impact family budgets, but will also increase the costs of doing business. Business travelers, who often only stay a night or two at their destination before heading home, almost always use carry-on baggage.”
Schumer hopes his letter to Secretary Geithner serves as a “sign to the entire airline industry that consumers have had enough with unnecessary fees that don’t improve the quality of air travel,” and pledges to press the Treasury Department to revise its recent decision and close this loophole.