With Travel Season Ahead, Senator Markey, and Reps. Cohen and Garcia Reintroduce Legislation to Stop Rising Airline Fees

Nov. 21, 2019
In first half of 2019, U.S. domestic airlines collected $2.8 and $1.4 billion respectively in just baggage and reservation fees.

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressmen Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) reintroduced the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act, legislation that would prohibit airlines from charging fees, including cancellation, change, and bag fees, that are not reasonable and proportional to the costs of the services actually provided. The bill also directs the Department of Transportation to review any other fees charged by airlines. Too often, airlines blindside travelers with exorbitant charges at checkout caused by unexpected fees for basic aviation services. This price gouging has exponentially grown as a business practice over the last decade. The top ten airlines worldwide collected $35.2 billion in ancillary fees in 2018, up from just $1.2 billion in 2007. In the first two quarters of 2019, U.S. domestic airlines collected $2.8 billion and $1.4 billion in just baggage and reservation fees, respectively. With the busiest travel season of the year still ahead, both of these figures are on track to reach all-time highs by the end of 2019.

“Airlines fees are as high as the planes passengers are traveling on, and it’s time to stop their rapid ascent,” said Senator Markey. “It should not cost more to change an airline ticket than the original cost of the ticket, period. Airlines should not bilk passengers just because they need to check a couple of bags. With the Thanksgiving travel season upon us, I am proud to reintroduce the FAIR Fees Act so we can put a stop to this price gouging and protect consumers traveling to see their loved ones. I thank Reps. Cohen and Garcia for their partnership on this important consumer protection legislation.”

“I often hear from my constituents and others about unreasonable fees for schedule changes, cancellations or checked baggage that appear out of whack with the likely true cost to the airlines,” said Congressman Cohen. “The FAIR Fees Act is a common sense remedy to the public’s growing frustration with these exorbitant fees. It would require the FAA to review existing fees to ensure they are reasonable and protect consumers from abusive pricing practices.”

“During the last several years, the flying public has experienced ever-shrinking airline seats, a new fare called ‘basic economy’ so you can pay more for less, increased baggage fees, and sky-high change and cancellation fees, often in excess of the original ticket cost,” said Congressman Garcia. “The flying public deserves better and the FAIR Fees Act will protect consumers from corporate price gouging that has resulted in record profits.”

The FAIR Fees Act is endorsed by the National Consumers League, Consumer Reports, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Travelers United, Business Travel Coalition. 

“Senator Markey’s FAIR Fees Act will help restore sanity and competition to the aviation marketplace,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director, the National Consumers League. “Eighty percent of routes are run by the four big carriers. Through unchecked mergers and acquisitions, the airlines have carved up major routes and no longer have to compete for our business. Congress must step in and act. We applaud Senator Markey’s Fair Fees Act because it will force the airlines to compete over actual fares and service, not over who can slam consumers with the most fees.”

“Airline ticket cancellation, change and bag fees are out of whack and Consumer Action is pleased to support the reintroduction of Sen. Markey’s FAIR Fees Act to protect airline travelers from gouging,” said Linda Sherry, director of National Priorities, Consumer Action. “It’s not fair that consumers must ante up ridiculously high fees when their travel plans change—even when they made an innocent mistake in booking travel and don’t notice it right away! Consumer Action wholeheartedly supports the FAIR Fees Act to make airline fees reasonable and proportional.”

“Add-on airline fees should be transparent and fair,” said Susan Grant, director of Consumer Protection and Privacy, Consumer Federation of America. “Passengers shouldn’t be gouged when they need to change their plans or can’t fit their baggage into ever-shrinking overhead space.”

“Airlines have raised their fees sky high, forcing travelers to pay more and more for basic services that used to be included in the price of a ticket," said Anna Laitin, Director of Financial Policy, Consumer Reports.  "This bill will help bring fees back down to earth by requiring airlines to make them transparent, reasonable, and proportional to the real cost of providing the service.”

“Airlines are overcharging consumers with fees that are grossly disproportionate to the value of the service received and result in a windfall for airlines. ‘Exhibit A’ is change fees, where airlines charge $200 when the true cost of a change is 6 to 7 times lower, if not zero,” said Kevin Mitchell, Founder, the Business Travel Coalition. “This kind of unconscionable consumer price gouging is a textbook example of unfair methods of competition that underpin competition laws.”

“FAIR Fees will be a strong dose of common sense for an industry that has become far too consolidated,” said Charlie Leocha, president, Travelers United. “When the major airlines can move in ancillary-fee lockstep without regard for actual costs the market system is clearly broken. If the pricing systems were working, we would not require congressional action. Unfortunately, since the country has been faced with airline merger after merger this bill has become necessary.”