Congress is Once Again Trying to Re-regulate Airlines While Hiding Behind the Consumer Protection Veil

Government Regulation

It’s rather remarkable how often some body in the US government decides to take up an issue related to the airlines. This time, it’s the Minority Staff in the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Office of Oversight and Investigations who have prepared a report for the ranking member, Sen Bill Nelson (D-FL). (Give me a minute, I need to catch my breath after that one.) The report, unimaginitively-entitled “The Unfriendly Skies: Consumer Confusion Over Airline Fees,” tries to put forth suggestions on how the government can make things better for consumers now that ancillary revenues are a way of life. Is there anything of value? A little. But for the most part it looks like yet another attempt at re-regulating airline pricing.

The report’s overall conclusion is in no way shocking:

In the last five years, the ancillary fee model has become a central part of the revenue stream for major U.S. airlines. Unfortunately, this new system does not always result in fairness or transparency for the traveling public.

What’s the solution? There were 7 distinct recommendations on how the government can improve things for travelers. Two are minor (make airlines link to the DOT website and then make the DOT website better), but the other 5 are worth discussing. Only one of them has any merit.

1) Ancillary Fees Should Be Disclosed as Early as Possible in the Booking Process in a Standardized Format
Hasn’t DOT already tried this several times in one form or another? The report compares airlines to credit cards. Credit cards have a standard disclosure that is supposed to make it easier for people to compare various cards. Here’s the example that’s in the report.

Sample Credit Card Disclosure

The people behind this report think that should be brought over to the airline industry.

Committee minority staff believes that a similar disclosure box, presented at the time a route is selected on a booking website or orally over a telephone call, and also on the ticket receipt, could help more fully inform consumers about potential additional costs associated with an airfare purchase.

Now that’s funny. It’s simpler for credit cards, but fees on airlines can vary not only by route but also by fare and mileage program status. In addition, there are a ton of ancillary options and the amounts aren’t always straightforward to disclose. Can you imagine sitting on the phone while someone reads the entire disclosure on fees? That sounds like something that they would inflict on prisoners in Guantanamo.

I’m always for sensible improvements in disclosure, but this is a bad way to handle it.

2) Checked Baggage and Carry-On Baggage Fees Should Have a Clear Connection to the Costs Incurred by the Airline
Wait, what? What other industry that isn’t regulated is told that its prices have to track with the costs involved in providing the service? That’s just an absurd notion. Pricing should be done based on demand. I’ll talk about this a little more in point 4 below.

3) Airlines Should Promptly Refund Fees for Any Checked Bags That Are Delayed More Than 6 Hours on a Domestic Flight
While 6 hours seems like a strangely arbitrary number, I like the idea that there should be some compensation if the service isn’t delivered as promised, but it shouldn’t have to be a refund. I’m fine with Alaska’s baggage guarantee where you get a $25 voucher for future travel if your bag isn’t at the carousel in 20 minutes (forget 6 hours). Delta gives you 2,500 bonus miles instead. I LIKE this, but I don’t think it should be a regulatory requirement.

There are rules around how airlines must compensate travelers when bags are delayed or lost. That is sufficient. If airlines want to go above and beyond by providing a stronger guarantee, then that makes me more interested in flying that airline. But it shouldn’t be regulated.

4) Airline Change Fees Should Be Limited to a Reasonable Amount Tied to Lead Time Prior to Departure and a Maximum Percentage of the Original Fare Paid
I’ve been a harsh critic of the $200 change fee, and I absolutely hated that United lied and said that the fee was going up from $150 to compensate for costs. So in a sense, I think that is deceptive and airlines that use this excuse deserve a little punishment. But it’s insane to require that the change fee actually track costs. It would be nearly impossible to make that happen in the first place, but again, why can’t airlines charge more than the cost involved in providing that service?

As long as the rules are disclosed up front, that’s what matters. And I do find that airlines do a pretty lousy job of making change fee details known. I used to do airline pricing and it can still feel like reading a scientific dissertation when I have to interpret fare rules on some airlines. If there should be a focus here, it should be on forcing a better change fee disclosure and explanation. The report talked about this, yet it wasn’t mentioned in the final recommendations. I can only shake my head.

5) Airlines Should Provide Clear Disclosures That “Preferred Seat” Charges Are Optional
When I first saw this, I laughed. But I actually think there’s some merit here. It seems obvious to me and many seasoned travelers that if you only see preferred seats on the seat map, you can just wait and get your seat for free upon check-in. But for travelers who aren’t regulars, this might not be obvious. If there’s no free seat available, then travelers should be informed that they can get a free seat at check-in.

In the end, there are a couple of ideas in here that might make sense, but the big picture items? They look like pure price regulation to me. I’ll assume most if not all of this has little chance of being enacted anyway.

Get Cranky in Your Inbox!

The airline industry moves fast. Sign up and get every Cranky post in your inbox for free.

70 comments on “Congress is Once Again Trying to Re-regulate Airlines While Hiding Behind the Consumer Protection Veil

  1. Wow, #2 is absurd.

    As Jon Stewart reminded us last week, Bullsh!t is everywhere. Lots and lots of it right here.

  2. I would be in favor of something similar to #1, but far more simplified than the credit card disclosures. How many people care to read that (though everyone should), and of those how many understand it? There can however be a list of COMMON services and the range of charges. Example:

    Charges based on fare, route, and time of booking. Typical charges:
    Bags – $0-$75/bag
    Priority checkin – $0-$100/person
    Preferred Seating – $0-$200/person each flight
    Change Fee – 0-25% of purchase price
    Onboard Meals – $5-$10
    ***Additional services and charges available, see (insert link here)

    1. XJT DX – But is that helpful in any way? I mean, if it says Bags – $0 – $75/bag, then that tells me nothing of value. I’d rather just see a link to a more detailed disclosure, or, as mentioned by others, a link to a calculator like United has for bags.

      1. I think it has to go beyond disclosure per se – if they’re going to regulate anything (big if there) they need to regulate the disclosure and tools available.

        So, do something like require that airlines, OTAs, etc have a set time period to make available disclosure and calculator tools in all channels. If they don’t, create a stick approach like fines equal to their ancillary fees or something.

        If I go to buy a ticket on say, Spirit, through, say, Expedia, it should be able to tell me – specifically – how many of what type of bags are you bringing, what seats are available at what cost, etc. Moreover, I should be able to set these parameters and have them spit back a true comparison price between the various airlines. This would be very different than today, where Spirit is going to show up as cheaper, but then I may have no idea that the “true cost” of flying them versus Southwest includes big bag fees, or versus AA includes seat selection fees, etc.

        Same goes for change fees, which “may apply”. Nope, they’re applying at $200 a ticket, UNLESS

        The whole ancillary revenue game is cute for the airline pricing and finance folks, but it is a deliberate campaign of obfuscation to the infrequent traveler.

  3. Cranky,
    Why are you laughing at items 1 & 3. Why shouldn’t you see the complete cost up front before you book? Seems fair to me. And if some mook pays to check his bag and its not delivered that means the service was not as expected. Give them a cash refund, not a voucher which as you know doesn’t cost them much. In addition, why aren’t the airlines paying taxes of these ancillary fees? It seems like highway robbery just like the hotels with their mandatory resort fees.

    1. #1 – I’m all for disclosure, but it can’t be boiled down into something like the credit card template, because it’s too complex.

      #3 – If your bag is delayed, there are very clear rules on the compensation you’ll get. Assuming your bag gets delivered eventually, the service was provided. It wasn’t provided well, so airlines should compensate you if they’re smart (like Alaska and Delta), but that would still be above the base level compensation which already exists when a bag is delayed.

      As for ancillary fees, I agree. I would like to see that taxed because right now it creates a disincentive for airlines to do it the customer-friendly way.

      1. Taxing ancillary fees would actually help transparency. Besides that ancillary fees are essentially airfare disguised to dodge taxes, this would give airlines an incentive to create fare bundles that include fees. if money is taxed both as airfare and fees, then the airline would want to sell as many ancillary services up front (ie: bundled) to get the money whether the passenger uses the services or not.

  4. A headmaster scolds the children who misbehaved. The airlines have royally misbehaved here — it’s nice to see that there’s still a sheriff in town (although at the moment this is all talk).

    BS to “reregulation”. Making sure that companies.don’t lie and arr transparent has nothing to do with price regulation. Supermarkets have to clearly display prices on goods they sell — do yountruly believe that this is bad??

    1. John Tarik – You’re misunderstanding me. I’m all for good disclosure. The supermarkets aren’t told by the government how much they have to sell each thing for. That’s my issue.

  5. As for #3, it should be a refund. No ifs, ands or buts. Alaska’s program is good. But it requires that you fly them again. Delta should also be commended, but it requires you to be a member of their program. If you plan to never fly them again or do not belong to SkyMiles, then #3 offers nothing for you.

    If I paid cash for you to transport my bags and you did not do that in a timely manner, then cash is what I should receive back. Not airline funny money.

    1. Considering the inconvenience of a (significantly) delayed bag (not talking about 20 mins here), there should be mandatory compensation. Want to bet tha suddenly the delayed bag rate will drop?

  6. United has a handy dandy baggage fee calculator on their web site:

    I have only used it once (for someone else) since I rarely check a bag, and if I do, as a *G I don’t pay for my bag.

    In general, though, the rules are annoyingly complicated. E.g., if you buy a ticket on to LIH and you happen to fly via HNL (connection on HA), then your United status won’t help you in the way back: Hawaiian will charge you for the bags. It would seem reasonable to disclose stuff liked this at booking, because suddenly the slightly more expensive United non-stop might actually be the better choice.

  7. I think these suggestions hardly amount to re-regulation as the old timers remember 1970’s and prior. Airline fees are a lot like banking fees. A little here and a little there to cover costs when times aren’t so great and the next thing you know the airlines are making billions and eyebrows perk up because someone is probably getting screwed.

    Of all the items only #2 seems absurd. I’m with the crowd, if your checked bag shows up late (or not at all) you should get a cash refund. The service you paid for was not rendered. And who can be against disclosure of fees? It’s complicated because the airlines made it that way. They can simplify their system or they can find a way to have a full disclosure. I don’t care. As for change fees I’m not sure. Delta has often waived the $200 for me because my booked flight was oversold. Why it costs $200 is beyond me, but likewise are fees for standby. It’s an extra empty seat, shouldn’t cost anything and that opens a seat on another flight they can sell for a walk-up fare. All in all though, I’m all for more disclosure and the disgusting thing is the .gov has to get involved to make airlines do it – which is even more reason to be suspicious of the airlines.

    1. A – By that standard, then I’m guessing you believe that if your flight is late, your fare should be refunded as well? Even if it’s delayed, the airline is getting your bag to you, which is the ultimate service being provided. And there are already compensation rules in place for delayed bags.

      1. It is about where it is at. If I am late and my bags are equally late, no big deal. If I get somewhere, and need to change clothes, but the airline has delayed them, I need to stop at a store, and buy something.

        It would be like you decided to pay a cab to deliver your luggage and you to a another destination. Sure you got there, but the cabbie left the bags on the curb. The cabbie might go back and get the bags (at his expense), but his tip will be a lot lower.

        1. Tommyb – Right, but if the bags are delayed, then you can get reimbursed for your out-of-pocket expenses (within reason). So it’s not like the airline is just telling you that you get nothing if your bag is late.

          1. how easy is it in practice to get reimbursed? Let’s say I am on a business trip and need my business outfit (shoes, shirt, suit) a few hours after arrival. Will the airline buy me a new suit?

            1. Oliver – I don’t think it’s all that hard. I mean, you have to file the initial claim when you land, before you leave the airport. But we’ve had plenty of clients who we’ve helped get reimbursed. It’s just capped at $3300 per bag domestically. I would assume any excessive requests might be challenged, but anything within reason should be fair game.

      2. I don’t think that’s a convincing analogy. Most people would say that airlines’ job when delivering checked bags is to get them there on the same flight as their owner. Not doing so is a categorical fail, which is different than when you and the bags both get to your destination, but late.

        Furthermore, compensation for delayed flights has the whole issue with acts of god vs. airlines’ responsibility. It is difficult for me to imagine circumstances where checked luggage separates from its owner that are not the airlines’ fault.

  8. While you might have a point in #1 that disclosing the fees is not possible in an easy one size fits all chart, I would like to see airlines be required to at least provide a link to the fee structure, perhaps with a search function attached. I recently had to book a reservation for a flight I knew might have to be re-scheduled at the last minute. I spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for the change fee for that particular fare and never found it. I would be willing to wade through the minutiae for a particular fare if I could at least find it.

    But I completely disagree with you on the bag fee refund. Airlines should be required to refund you cash (or issue a refund to your credit card) if your bags do not arrive in a timely manner. And I think six hours is too long. It should be the next available flight from your originating point or three hours, whichever is soonest. Voucher or miles? No. If I buy a television and it doesn’t work when I get it home, I either want a replacement or a refund. No store credit or gift card. Same with luggage. I paid for the service. Either give it to me in a timely manner or give me my money back.

    One thing I would support, which would not make me any friends, is a change to the practice of checking your carry-ons at the gate if they are too big or too many for the bins… or if the flight is super-crowded. Currently airlines are offering this service as a free-check, so people can bypass the bag charge by schlepping them to the gate, then checking them before boarding. So fools like me who actually check a bag might be charged the fee, while the folks at the gate scam the system. I say charge the people who check their bags at the gate at the last minute DOUBLE the bag charge, so they will be motivated to check them when the rest of us do. (Exceptions for strollers and wheelchairs.) Why should travelers who follow the rules be penalized and those who try to get around them get a freebie?

    1. Edward, I just don’t see how your last point would work. I travel with one carry-on sized roller bag. There are times when I have been on flights that have so many people with status that they have run out of bin space during group 1. There have been others times that I have traveled where they get to the last group and there is still space available. While your idea of double charging people “scamming” the system is very valid, how can you determine those that are intentionally doing this vs. those that thought there would be space?

    2. Since there is generally not enough space for rollaboards, why should some folks have to pay (depending on when they are allowed to board… or arrive at the gate from heir connecting flight, perhaps towards end of boarding even though they are in Group 1)?

      Sure, charge for bags that violate the size rules.

    3. I agree with this COMPLETELY. Before I achieved MVP status with Alaska, I paid to check backs. I felt like a sucker when they offered to gate-check bags for FREE because the plane was full. I played by the rules and paid $20, you broke the rules and paid $0. Bullshit mountain, indeed.
      OTOH, I don’t know what Alaska is doing to incentivize baggage handlers, but I have gotten to claim the sorry-it’s-late voucher exactly once out of many, many flights, and then the bags were only 3 minutes late. The Alaska agent was at the baggage carousel handing them out and apologizing for the delay, it wasn’t like we even had to go ask for what we were supposed to get.

      1. “you broke the rules and paid $0. Bullshit mountain, indeed”

        Only most of these people aren’t breaking the rules – they just haven’t boarded the plane in time to secure somewhere for their carry-on luggage to fit in the cabin; penalising oversize carry-on offenders, however, should be something the airlines take a little more seriously.

    1. No, the “reality of their markets” is that current demand supports the current price level.

      Econ 101 time: the price customers are willing to pay for a good or service has no connection to the cost sellers incur to provide the service. NONE. When I buy a plane ticket, I make my decision based on the value (“utility” in econ-speak) I get from the purchase compared to the offered price, taking into account substitute goods (other flights, other modes of transportation, alternative destinations, or just not going.) I don’t care how much it costs the airline to provide the service, as a consumer that’s irrelevant to me. It’s relevant to the seller, but not to me.

      Airfares are up because demand is up and supply is relatively unchanged…and that’s not some vast conspiracy either, since airlines operate in a very capital-intensive market, it takes years for new airplanes to be ordered, and many airports are running at (or even over) capacity. Airlines have learned their lessons from the past and aren’t as willing to increase capacity just to lose money the moment demand weakens, and the reality of the capital and used aircraft markets has reduced new airline creation – we don’t have the “hey, let’s go buy a few old 737s and start a new airline!” mentality we saw just after deregulation. Airfares were already going up before the drop in oil prices because demand was recovering from the Great Recession, just as airfares dropped with drop in demand at the height of the recession, even though oil prices had, at that point, not declined as much.

      Look at it this way: if the price of their supplies went down, would Apple reduce the price of iPhones or iPads? Why would they? If a customer is willing to pay $500, the fact that the phone costs, say, $25 less to make isn’t going to result in Apple being nice and reducing their price just because their costs went down. Now it could result in Apple reducing prices if a competitor used the lower supply prices to cut their price to increase market share, but that’s only a possibility, not an inevitable result.

  9. Uh, no, it’s not a Fox News issue. Setting caps on pricing is regulation. Period. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to go read the Airline Deregulation Act.

    Congressional action often results in unintended consequences. Change fees were added to allow consumers to re-use a non-refundable ticket.

    Would Congress prefer that non-refundable tickets just become null and void if not used as purchased, similar to tickets to the theater or sporting event?……..

  10. Setting a cap or mandating a ratio what a fee should be is regulation pure and simple. And the news media never gets that fares are tied to supply and demand, not directly to oil. A large drop in oil prices doesn’t mean airlines rush to cut fares from $100 to $80 the next day if planes are already pretty full. It does make it more likely that someone is tempted to eventually cut fares to fill some more empty seats or try and compete more with Spirit or Frontier. Just look at recent airline RASM dropping pretty much across the board. It may take 5 or 6 months for fares to start dropping, but that is because airlines have been burned before because a drop in oil prices suddenly turned into a spike in oil prices.

  11. I’m not saying that I am onboard with more regulation, but I do think that the problem that they’re trying to solve is transparency. The bottom line is that most customers can only easily comparison shop airfare, which is a poor indication of total out of pocket expenses. Bag fees and other fees can swing the price by statistically significant percentages. I don’t have a solution, but I don’t think that creating transparency is a bad thing.

    I also think that airlines presented certain surcharges (I’m talking about you, fuel surcharge) as a usage based fee, and I do think that it’s reasonable to consider whether that should be tied to actual cost. This could also work in airlines’ favor – there are different strategies in different airlines as they related to hedging (or not hedging) and those strategies can be price differentiators.

  12. How many people on that committee are up for reelection I wonder and need to show voters in their state they are out to ‘help’ them…

    I agree with #3 that you should get a refund on a bag fee and that refund should only be in the form of money. I the public must give money to the airline, then the airline must give money in return.

    It seems everytime the Feds try and regulate airlines, they never do research on the subject to know what all is involved before trying to win votes and cause more problems for what they think they are fixing.

  13. I hate the “nickel and dime” model that all airlines not named Southwest have adopted, and have drastically reduced my air travel as a result of general disgust at where the industry is going. That said, I don’t think the soloution is to go back to heavy-handed government regulation. I do think that there should be adequate disclosure of the extra charges and that seat upgrade thing is a example of where disclosure could be improved. I think the solution to this problem is basing the ticket tax percentage on “all-in” cost of the ticket, not just the “base” fare.

  14. On Fee Disclosure: Yep, I totally get that the fees vary by airline, metal, route, FF status, etc. So that seems to be even MORE reason to supply a fee list during the booking process; it could quite easily be supplied on the final confirmation screen after the airline has the FF number and all the other data it needs. (But yeah, I have no idea how that would work for phone bookings.)

    Baggage fees connected to cost? Yeah, that’s a stupid idea.

    Baggage fee refund after six hours? Heck, I’d go for “If you check in on-time, and your bags don’t arrive at the same time you do, or earlier, issue an automatic baggage fee refund.” It boggles my mind that they do not already do this. FedEx/UPS/USPS/etc. all seem to understand that when they’ve sold a premium delivery service (and I think fees for checked bags qualify) that the minimum you can do is refund the delivery charge. The late bag rate is low enough that this wouldn’t even cost very much.

    Change fee: I agree. I think the way the airlines do it today is stupid, but I don’t think it should be a law. (And going with graduated change fees might have consequences people don’t like. The most logical fee as departure gets close is 100%.)

    Seat-fee option disclosure: This would seem to be a really minor and beneficial change for the inexperienced. That’s what, a single sentence on the screen during the booking process. (But expect Baldanza to throw a $hit-fit over such a rule anyway.)

    1. Questions about how to get a seat when no non-preferred seats are available come all the time on FT and Milepoint.

  15. At least all airline fees are for optional services. You don’t have to pay them. I wish Congress would discuss having hotels include mandatory resort fees into the room cost and banning rental car fees for stuff like stadiums for billionaire owners who sucker cities into building new stadiums for themselves and their profits.

      1. IMHO these fees cost more in goodwill than they earn in money. No one likes getting the bait-and-switch routine, whether it is a “resort fee” at a hotel, a “facilities fee” when signing a lease at a large apartment complex, or a “tax, title, and registration fee” at a car dealership. Sometimes you feel like you don’t have a choice at the time, but places that charge those fees don’t earn my business if I can help it, and certainly don’t get my REPEAT business. Shame “Tell you what, take that $299 tax, title, and registration fee off the invoice for the new car, and I’ll go stand in line at the DMV for a day myself at that rate,” doesn’t seem to go over too well with dealerships, wonder why…

  16. Your headline is a bit deceptive: I was expecting to read about the second coming of the Civil Aeronautics Board.

  17. Sorry Cranky…I believe at this point the airlines deserve whatever is coming their way. They were deregulated and then let to roam free. I’m all for this. Delta has gutted just about everything their elites liked. I’ve sat at PM for years and I wonder why. But then again I look over at AA and UA and they aren’t doing anything better. So yes let them regulate away. Fuel cost has been down for way too long and prices haven’t changed. Fees haven’t changed. Profits have soared. I firmly believe that DOJ will reveal proof on the load restriction issue. MCO to SLC and back up until this year was a 757. Early this year they started to toss an A320 in the mix. Not because the load factor wasn’t there but because it drove the prices up. So as much as I love my Delta, they all deserve what they get when Uncle Sam comes knocking.

  18. I agree, the airlines painted themselves into this corner, by increasingly providing ‘bait & switch’ in fees/services (making the decline button small on Allegiant’s website for example) it’s just screaming for someone to step in and do something.

    For the baggage charge, it should immediately be refunded if the service wasn’t provided, screw the 6hr. If it doesn’t come on your flight, it’s just a case of IDB for your bag (for which compensation is already required for people).

    However, I’m highly annoyed to not see ‘fuel surchages’ fees mentioned. This is yet another way airlines can deceptively advertise ‘free/reward/bonus’ tickets, while charging still charging 1/3 to 1/2 of the total ticket price back in a fuel surcharge that exceeds the total fuel cost per seat (see the lawsuit v BA). It got so bad that airlines realized they were open for litigation and changed it to the generic “carrier administration surcharge”.

    Also, it goes to show exactly how much the FTC is in the industry’s pockets, when they rule that resort fees aren’t deceptive. Can’t wait to see milk advertising at the supermarket with a mandatory pasture fee.

  19. Ok, understand I’m just a traveler …. un-hip to all the intricacies of airline financial ups-and-downs; I just know what I have to pay.


    Educate me as to why regulation is a bad thing. Please.

    1. Robert – It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just going to make for a radically different industry. If you regulate fares, then that eliminates price competition in the industry. So that will push airlines to differentiate themselves on product more (though I think they’ve been doing more of that over the last couple years to some extent anyway). The product would likely be nicer. But fares would be higher since there wouldn’t be any price competition. For those with the means to pay more for tickets, this might be a better solution. But for those who value price more than the rest, this would be bad.

      Partial regulation doesn’t work very well. It’s like when California decided to regulate the amount consumers would pay for electricity but deregulate what providers of electricity could charge the utilities. The result was massive bankruptcy.

      The decision was made in the US nearly 40 years ago that a deregulated market for air travel was better for the consumer. I still think that’s the right way to go because it has enabled so many people to fly that couldn’t have flown before.

      1. Deregulation worked great when there was actual competition between airlines, as there was for several decades after the law was passed. Now, for the first time since deregulation, the market is an oligopoly, and regulation is once again necessary. I don’t think we need to go back to CAB-style regulation of fares and routes, but some policies like the ones in this proposal would be helpful.

      2. Thanks for the information…..
        Call me crazy, but if fares are regulated, competition could be a function of getting rid of baggage fees, as well as all the rest of the silly-ass fees that are prevelant.

        1. Robert – Well that would be entirely up to the government if the industry were regulated. Airlines would not have control over pricing decisions, including fees. That would make me unhappy, personally, since I don’t often check bags. I’d much rather have people who check a bag pay for it so that I don’t have to pay higher fares to subsidize them.

          1. Really? (I’m coming from an uneducated position)….
            Fees and the rest would fall under govt. regulation?
            Are you sure?

            1. I mean, there tax exemptions for most of these silly fees, which, to my thinking, would exempt them from govt. regulation….

            2. Robert – Well if you’re talking about price regulation, then fees are part of that. I suppose the government could try to partially regulate pricing where it would involve fares but not fees, but that’s a recipe for disaster. Then everyone will just find a way to increase the amount they put under fees.

  20. While they are at it, can we get the security and immigration/customs fees refunded if we have to wait in line for security for more than 20 minutes as well?

  21. for anyone to say the extra bags dont cost anything to carry just does not understand that weight equals fuel. Any additional weight requires more fuel. Personally, i think that passengers should be weighed and charged a flat rate per pound. Then they would realize how much it costs to move that extra weight. Travel by airlines is still the most economical if you consider time is money. Airlines are in business to make money for investors, not to give stuff away. If they dont like the extra bag fees, ship the bag. but that costs money too.

  22. If you don’t want to pay a change fee buy a refundable ticked.

    As to Airlines making billions, Look at their size, capital expenditures, profits may seem high but so are the expenses. The airline industry historically has had very small return on investment (<5%, and usually 1.5%) compared to other industries.

    All airline web sites I have checked, list their fees somewhere on the web site, but not on the first page, you have for look for it, most don't.

    Airline travel pricing is more transparent than any other industry.

  23. I agree with “Robert Crandall” that the fees need to be taxed the same way as the base fare. That alone should help push things in a sensible direction. The fuel surcharges in particular are pretty ridiculous. That should be part of the base fare.

    I don’t know if 6 hours is the right cut-off, but at some point, the airline did fail to provide the service you paid for. Absolutely, a refund should be required, and not just a voucher or some worthless miles.

    The concept behind #1 is the holy grail, but it seems very difficult to implement. If a comparison website like kayak could really figure out how to do this, it’d be awesome. But with airlines like spirit coming up with new fees that the others don’t have, it’s just going to be difficult.

    In general, nothing should be a fee if it isn’t avoidable. I don’t know if that needs to be enshrined in law, but it’s a point that consumer advocates should be making very forcefully.

  24. I disagree with you on #3 and would go even further than the recommendation. When airlines started charging to carry checked luggage, then as far as I’m concerned they owe me an immediate full refund on the baggage charge if the luggage doesn’t make the trip with me, e.g. arrive on the same plane I do.

    1. Would be interesting to flood the airlines with credit card refund requests via the banks for not providing the service purchased.

  25. Look at that, the guy who used to work as an airline pricing analyst opposes government regulation of airline pricing. Who would’a thunk it?

  26. Nice to see Congree work for the people, as opposed to for the companies that want to explit the people. kudos.

    But then you have idiots like this blogger and companies can keep on screwing us. Like vanka did before fee disclosure regulations.

  27. CF takes the airlines side of things. And in other breaking news – the sun will rise in the east today.

  28. I think they should regulate on which equipment should be flown as required: turboprops are the exception and regional jet clunkers with 50 seat should be banned! All jets above 50 seats should be used at all times!

  29. William, I think CF looks at things from both sides. He has better knowledge than I do (although I’m an ex-TWA who left after Carl ripped the place to shreds). To CF: you seem to hit a few nerves here which is good. Why doesn’t our government do something to help the consumer? Oh wait silly me. Government working for the people. Sorry. Me bad :-(

  30. 5) Airlines Should Provide Clear Disclosures That “Preferred Seat” Charges Are Optional

    As season/well informed travelers we know this and we know that when the airline website or kiosk asks you to choose a seat and the remaining seats all have a $ associated, we know you still do not have to choose. Airlines try to keep certain bulkhead and undesirable seats reserved for gate assignment for special needs passengers and to have the flexibility to move people around. i.e. rarely are all seats assigned.
    I have been amazed at the number of people at SSMs or in the gate area complaining about being forced to pay for seat assignments. However, it is not clear at all that this is optional and that waiting for a gate assignment is an option. It is in the purchase flow on websites and in the checkin flow as if it is required to pick and pay to complete the process. This is needs to be more clear as airlines are raking it in when its not clear to most that they have a choose on this fee.

  31. I think the interesting thing will be when baggage delivery services get affordable enough to where the difference between the airline fee’s and the baggage services is minimal or actually cheaper. Plus with new services such as Dufl, who actually CLEAN your clothing, what value added service are the airlines actually providing? I’m not a person who reflexively criticizes airlines, but there is increasingly a market for premium services that alleviate various travel issues for customers, and yet few airlines are attempting to innovate in this area despite 1) having built in cargo network and 2) the ease of adding it to as an add on for fares.

  32. People still watch Jon Stewart?

    Wow! I am continually amazed at what people seem to rely on as “news.” BS is indeed everywhere-primarily on his silly show!

  33. Although there is room for improvement with airlines, I think the politicians should not get involved. They seem to create changes that only confuse the traveler as well as the airlines even more. There may be things that should be regulated, but I thing the politicians are approaching it all wrong.

  34. I am a little more than a cranky flyer, I am a very reluctant flyer. I am tall and cannot sit in a cramped seat for hours on end any longer without pain, plus I have no A$$ left, so it hurts my rear end to sit for so long with my knees up to my chin and a LARGE person who is flowing into my seat so much so that I can’t move.

    I flew for over 20 years with the US Air Force and I know a thing or two about the FAA and the rules the airlines try to enforce and how most are BS and some of the rules themselves are BS (for instance I have NEVER seen an aircraft crash, deviate from course or malfunction due to a cell phone. Think for a minute, if an aircraft was that susceptible to a cell phone signal, the entire aviation industry would be in danger? It is not an issue!!! If it was, it is an aircraft requirement not a passenger requirement and don’t you think the FAA would ground every aircraft if it could be damaged by a cell phone?)

    As a frequent flyer with status on several airlines, i find it less and less likely airline will upgrade. It is no longer about loyalty or customer satisfaction. I find that in todays world, especially on the new American Airlines it is pure GREED. I have status on American and I find that they no longer care if customers are happy or not as long as they pay. They charge for pillows, blankets, and even leave seats empty in first class rather than bump frequent flyers. As part of the merger between US AIR and American, it is really difficult to understand who bought who. I was a loyal US Air Ways member, but after the merger, I lost most of the perks I use to get with US AirWays, for instance when booking a flight, as an elite member, i could choose an exit row AND get on the standby list for First class when I booked my flight. This encouraged me to book early and it benefited the airline by flights booked earlier. But the NEW American Airlines, that option is now DEAD. The earliest you can try to get an exit row without paying for it is 24-48 hours before the flight.

    Recently I took a trip between Dallas and Phoenix and as a frequent flyer I got an exit row confirmed two days before the flight. I double checked a day prior, and at the gate, i again confirmed i had an exit row seat, and when I boarded and scanned my ticket at the gate, the alarm went off to validate that I am willing and able to assist in an emergency. BUT, the aircraft seat assigned WAS NOT an exit row seat and was one behind. If I had been told, i could have changed my seat or used pints to upgrade, but the airlines failed and it felt like they deceived on purpose. I wrote the airline and they sent a canned response about not being able to control acts of god and other non relevant items. The response was more insulting than the failure/lie on their part.

    At this rate, it no longer benefits to be a frequent flyer or on a loyalty program. I would go out of my way to find the US Airways flight even when t was more expensive. Now it is not worth it, i gain nothing. I might as well choose the cheapest, Delta and United are by far the cheaper than the New America.

    For all the advice here, non of it requires a frequent flier program to be successful, actually, if you read carefully into this article and many others, the more people on these programs the less special they are and they least likely they will benefit you on any flights in the future.

    I for one, think that if we can get Congress to pass a very strict Passenger Bill of Rights so we no longer are at the mercy of the airlines to interpret or imply that FAA rules dictate how customers should be treated. I mean really, why do we have to agree to work for the airlines to get a seat in an aisle that has more legroom and leads to an exit. If is TRULY a safety issue, then remove the seats and have it fully open and eliminate the airlines ability to make money off an item that they are expecting you to work for. I think if the airline was faced with the choice, they would rather let you sit there for free than give up that revenue, which if true, means it is not about safety but rather about the revenue (GREED)!

    If we had some passenger rights, some hard rules in place that truly protected passengers you would see the airlines change a few of the things that treat us like dirt when we fly. Included in this Bill of Rights congress needs to hold employers accountable for forcing employees to fly under these conditions. It is one thing for a company to force you to travel for business, but then state how you will fly, what kind of seats you can purchase and how you cannot buy upgrades, different class of seating for lag room, etc. If this Bill of Rights protected the flyer both from the airline and the employer, then you would see changes by the airlines, if not just because it is a law, but corporations that deal with airlines and need to send their people on business trips would get pressure form them as well if the Bill of Rights meant they had to allow their employee to fly in comfort.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cranky Flier