Dems’ bill targets ‘ridiculous’ airline fees as holiday travel ramps up

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Lawmakers led by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., reintroduced legislation Thursday to try and combat "unfair and exorbitant fees" that they say passengers face for basic airline services.  

The Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous Fees, or FAIR Fees Act aims to limit fees placed on services such as checked bags, seat selection and ticket changes. The legislation also directs the Department of Transportation to review other fees imposed by carriers. 

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"Airlines should not be able to gouge passengers just because they need to check a couple of bags or charge an extra fee just to print a ticket," Markey said during a press briefing Thursday. "It should not cost more to cancel or change an airline reservation than the original cost of the ticket."  

Travelers walk through in Salt Lake City International Airport, Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Salt Lake City.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer / AP Newsroom)

However, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., noted Thursday that it is not "an attack on the airlines to eliminate fees," rather it's an effort "to make them reasonable."  

The move to reintroduce the bill and fight for "the rights of airline travelers" comes amid the holiday travel season, when prices are typically higher. 

Markey said passengers have been "blindsided" by these fees for many years. 

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In 2019, airlines worldwide nabbed nearly $110 billion in ancillary fee revenue, according to Markey. That same year, domestic airlines received $5.8 billion in baggage fees and $2.8 billion in ticket reservation fees alone.  

"In a holiday season of giving, airlines are again taking—through sky-high fees that must be grounded. This legislation will end astronomic fees levied by airlines," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. "Every year, airlines pocket tens of billions of dollars by swindling travelers for simply checking bags, changing a reservation, or just selecting their seats. Urgent action is needed to protect consumer pocketbooks from airline price gouging."

Rep. Jesus Garcia, D-Ill., said some communities are impacted more than others by the rising fees.

"Working class families, especially those from Latino and Black communities, are disproportionately affected, limiting their ability to travel and see their families," he said in a statement.

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