01.22.17

SCHUMER: PLAGUE OF AIRLINES CHARGING FEES ON OVERHEAD LUGGAGE IS SPREADING; NOW, AMERICAN JOINS UNITED AND OTHERS, SQUEEZING THE POCKETS OF COUNTLESS NEW YORKERS?; SCHUMER MAKES PUSH TO EXPAND AIRLINE PASSENGER BILL OF RIGHTS IN UPCOMING FAA BILL TO ROLLBACK UNFAIR POLICIES

American Just Became The Latest Major Airline To Adopt “Me-Too” Overhead Bin Ban For Customers Flying ‘Basic Economy’; Policy Bans Free Use Of Overhead Bin For Travelers Buying the Cheapest Ticket;

Schumer Says Upcoming FAA Bill Will Be Best Chance To Add New Consumer Protections That Undo Unfair Fees & More; Creeping Overhead Bin Fee Will Create Real Turbulence For Travelers But Is Just One Of Many New Nickel & Dime Ideas By Very Profitable Airlines

Schumer: Upcoming FAA Bill Is Best Chance For New Airline Consumer Protections To Fly

On the heels of yet another major airline instituting a fee policy for use of a plane’s overhead bin, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, today, sounded the alarm that even more airlines could follow suit as he made a public plea to the airlines choosing to adopt the new, restrictive policy that will ban the free use of overhead bins for travelers who purchase a “Basic Economy” ticket. American Airlines just became the second major airline to adopt this restrictive travel policy. Schumer also announced a push that includes the upcoming FAA bill and said he will use this bill to try and add new protections for airline consumers that undo unfair policies that nickel-and-dime travelers.

“You don’t have to know how to read the tea leaves to see that when it comes to new airline fees, the future looks turbulent for consumers,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Yet again, and as predicted, another major airline just made it harder for everyday consumers to fly by banning the free use of the overhead bin for some travelers. Now customers must pay up and purchase a more expensive ticket or check their bag for a new fee. If airlines are allowed to get away with this ill-conceived plan, one day, we might all be paying for use of the overhead bins, no matter who you are and no matter where you fly, and that will cost all of us more. The airlines that have adopted this policy should hit eject on this plan and allow free use of the overhead bin for all fare classes and for all customers. Plain and simple.”

Given the continued nickel-and-diming by the airlines, Schumer said he will push for an expansion of Airline Passenger Bill of Rights this year in the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill. Schumer says, in recent years, while airline profits have soared, consumers continue to be squeezed by the industry. Airlines are now charging extra for reasonable leg room, snacks and drinks, seating and boarding options, flight changes and now most recently -- use of the overhead bin. With the FAA reauthorization bill headed to the agenda of Congress, Schumer says he plans to make an expansion of basic airline consumer protections a top priority. The Senator said free use of the overhead bin, fee disclosure requirements, seat sizes, exorbitant change fees and other fundamental consumer protections should all be on the table in the upcoming FAA bill.

Last year, following United Airlines’ announcement of the new policy, Schumer warned of a slippery slope because other airlines could soon follow their lead. Schumer says that, with this new airline policy, consumers nationwide are being taken for a ride, especially because it will land airlines billions in revenue from new fees, slapped onto the bills of consumers. Schumer is calling for the policy to be reversed and says that all consumers, in all fare classes, should be able to utilize overhead bins for free when flying.

The just-announced “Basic Economy” fare structure by the airline is set to launch in late February. According to American Airlines, the “Basic Economy” ticket means that a traveler will only be entitled to one 18 x 14 x 8 inch item that fits under the seat (no access to overhead bins). Additional carry-on baggage fees will cost $25 per item plus the applicable bag fee. The ticket also means that the traveler will be assigned a seat at check-in and additional fees will be added to choose a specific seat.

United Airlines also announced its overhead bin policy late last year. Its “Basic Economy” customers may only bring one small item on board the plane: 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches. United Airlines’ “Basic Economy” tickets will be automatically assigned at check-in and not guaranteed that travelers on the same reservation will be seated together. 

Schumer explained that competing airlines also offer less-expensive options for customers, however, the new rule on carry-on luggage for United and American is among the most restrictive. Schumer is worried that just like shrinking seats, this could be a slippery slope that leads to all airlines slapping a fee onto the carry-on. These new basic economy tickets also limit seat assignments, giving seats to passengers after they check in, which could separate family members until the FAA establishes a policy, as directed in last year’s FAA bill, to allow children to sit with a family member at no extra cost; however, overhead bins are allowed to be used by all passengers.

The new policy means that fliers will lose out on the lowest price possible unless they are willing to forego the convenience of the overhead bin. Those same customers who do purchase the lowest price ticket face the likely scenario of being forced to pay to check a bag that was once free to carry on the plane.

Schumer has been an outspoken advocate for airline passengers and continues to fight against policies that unfairly hurt consumers. Earlier this year, Schumer successfully pushed back against efforts to reduce the size of carry-on luggage for travelers. The global trade association for the airline industry, known as International Air Transport Association (IATA), had proposed standardizing carry-on luggage to a size of 21.5 inches tall, 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep, which would reduce carry-on bag sizes by more than twenty percent. Schumer urged major airlines carriers to not adopt the proposed carry-on size policy. Similarly, in 2010, Schumer successfully fought back against an airline proposal to charge for carry-on bags. Schumer reached out to airline chief executives and urged them to reconsider the idea, and airlines heeded the call.

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