Klobuchar Announces Legislation to Combat Fees On Carry-On Baggage

Thursday, April 15th, 2010 at 5:33 am

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) joined Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in announcing new legislation Wednesday to confront the decision by Spirit Airlines to sock travelers with new fees for carry-on luggage.

Block Airlines’ Gratuitous (BAG) Fees Act, or the BAG Fees Act, comes after Spirit Airlines announced last week that it would begin charging customers a whopping $45 for carry-on luggage and exploiting an unintended tax loophole. The policy could spur other airlines to follow suit and impose a similar fee. The senators’ legislation is designed to rein in this new practice and restore basic fairness to airline travel.

“For Spirit Airlines, ‘service with a smile’ has been replaced by ‘service with a cash register,’” said Senator Klobuchar. “A carry-on baggage charge hits virtually every air travelers – whether it’s the business ‘road warrior,’ the weekend tourist or the family taking their annual vacation. Enough is enough.”

Klobuchar sits on the on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security. Klobuchar is a long-time advocate of consumer rights and recently cosponsored legislation to ensure airline passengers basic protections known as the Passenger Bill of Rights

“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,” Senator Schumer said. “This latest fee crosses the line and is a slap in the face to travelers. Our legislation will rein in the airlines and keep air travelers from being gouged every time they board a plane.”

Senator Menendez said: “The way this is going, one day they’ll want to make your seat’s recline coin operated. It seems that air carriers are crossing a line that will end of pricing middle class families right out of being able to fly, and that’s not right. While airlines have a right to set prices, families should have the right to bring a change of clothes with them and not be gouged for it.”

“Carry-on luggage is where people keep items essential to their health, work, and safety like laptop computers, medications, food to eat on the plane, baby formula, eye glasses and other items that need to be kept close at hand. These are personal items that airline passengers should not be charged to keep with them in the cabin.  When we tried to include such a ban in the FAA Reauthorization last month, we were blocked and told it was improbable airlines would ever charge for carry-on bags. Well, so far one airline has announced their intention to make fees for carry-on bags a reality. We cannot allow these flood gates to open.” said Senator Cardin, who has also authored another legislation that would impose an outright ban on carry-on fees.

“As airlines continue to pile on fees for even the most basic services, the rights of passengers are being left at the curb,” said Senator Lautenberg.  “Airlines are taking advantage of a tax loophole and reaping financial benefits at the expense of travelers.  It’s time to say enough is enough.  Let’s put an end to passenger mistreatment and restore consumer protections.”

“Charging consumers for overhead carry-on luggage is skyway robbery,” said Senator Shaheen.  “It is outrageous that American families, who are already feeling the squeeze in this economy, are now being punished for something that is completely beyond their control.  I am hopeful this legislation will prevent airlines from forcing more unreasonable and unfair fees onto their customers.”

Since the inception of commercial air travel, customers have always been given the opportunity to bring one carry-on bag with them to store in the overhead compartment without fear of being slapped with an additional fee. Carry-on luggage is particularly essential for weekend travelers, day trippers, and overnighters. The new fee will greatly add to the cost of travel for both business and leisure travelers. Families with children will also be hurt, as parents almost always need a carry-on item in order to store vital items like medicine, baby formula, or diapers.

The timing of the fee will also likely impact those trying to take their family on a summer vacation.

BAG Fees Act Background:

The senators’ legislation would confront this proposed fee by designating carry-on baggage as a necessity for air travelers. Airlines currently pay a 7.5-cent tax to the federal government for every dollar they collect in fares, but no tax is imposed on fees collected for non-essential services. Last January, the Treasury Department issued a ruling that deemed carry-on bags as non-essential for air travel. As a result, airlines can impose fees on these bags without paying any tax to the federal government on the revenues they collect. This creates a tax incentive for airlines to try to bilk consumers in the form of fees rather than by increasing the fares. The senators said Wednesday that if this tax loophole regarding carry-on bags did not exist, the airlines would likely not seek to charge travelers for this baggage.

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