FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 19, 2010
SCHUMER ANNOUNCES NEW CAMPAIGN TO SECURE "NO CARRY-ON BAGGAGE FEE" PLEDGE FROM REMAINING 21 MAJOR DOMESTIC AIRLINES
Schumer Secures Commitments from American, Delta, JetBlue, United, and US Air CEOs That They Won't Charge Passengers for Carry-on Baggage; Urges Spirit to Reverse Decision
Schumer Announces Campaign to Protect Passengers from Onerous Fees Continues; Announces He Will Be Urging Other 21 Major Airlines to Not Charge for Baggage Fees
Schumer Legislation Will Close Tax Loophole Encouraging Practice
Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced, following several major airlines committing to not charging passengers for carry-on baggage, that he is launching a campaign to secure that commitment from the remaining 21 government airlines. In personal calls to airline CEO’s, Schumer secured commitments from American, Delta, JetBlue, United, and US Air. Two weeks ago, a local carrier created a firestorm when it announced that it would break from long-standing airline tradition and begin charging customers a whopping $45 for carry-on luggage. The decision to charge carry-on fees spurred fears that other airlines would follow suit. Today, Schumer said that he would be reaching out to the other large national airlines, asking them to follow suit.
Standing at Westchester Airport, Schumer today also announced that the Consumer’s Union was endorsing his push to end fees for carry-on baggage.
“In the last week we have gained tremendous momentum in our effort to keep carry-on bags free,” said Schumer. “We have begun to put the brakes on run-a-way and out of control airline fees. I am pleased some of the major carriers have responded to our efforts and have agreed not to charge for something that has always been free, and I will continue to push until that is once again the standard practice.”
“Consumers Union strongly supports Sen. Chuck Schumer’s efforts to stop the imposition of fees for carry-on bags,” said Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “There is no question that carry-on bags are essential for air travel, and ought to be exempt from such fees. We urge Congress and the Department of Transportation to draw a line in the sand to stop the incessant, relentless gouging of air travelers through additional, unexpected luggage fees.”
Schumer plans to continue reaching out to airlines throughout the country urging them to make similar commitments. At the same time he plans to continue placing pressure on Spirit to reverse its decision.
This past week Schumer, along with several of his Senate colleagues announced new legislation to confront airlines that would sock travelers with new fees for carry-on luggage. The Block Airlines' Gratuitous (BAG) Fees Act, or the BAG Fees Act, is designed to nip this new in practice at its inception and restore basic fairness to air travelers.
Schumer’s legislation would confront the carry-on baggage 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 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.
In the past few years, some airlines have added fees for checked baggage, extra legroom, seat assignments, peanuts, and one airline is considering charging for trips to the bathroom. For the most part, passengers have begrudgingly accepted these new fees. These latest fees have brought passengers to the tipping point.
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.
Schumer added, “Americans have made it clear they don’t like these fees and they won’t stand for them. It appears some airlines are starting to get the message and I intend to push the others to make the same commitment to the American public.”
Continued Bell, “In a national survey that we carried out in December 2009, Consumer Reports found that hidden fees for services are the most annoying of 21 consumer gripes. Hidden fees scored 8.9 on a scale of 1 to 10 of annoying consumer experiences. But the airlines have not gotten the message. They keep tacking on additional fees that drive up prices way beyond what consumers think they have agreed to. The good news is that Congress and the DOT have the opportunity to do the right thing, and there is tremendous public support for enhanced consumer protections. Congress and the DOT should ban additional fees for carry-on bags outright, and ensure that all other fees are disclosed upfront, before the consumer buys the airline ticket.”