Wyden Introduces Bill to Curb Surprise Baggage Fees Charged by Airlines

Sen. Wyden characterized airlines springing surprise fees on flyers as "highway robbery."

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants to make your holiday flight home cheaper.

Wyden introduced legislation on Nov. 20 that would ban airline companies from slapping unexpected fees on flyers, including cancellation fees, change-of-flight fees and baggage fees.

"Airlines are committing highway robbery when they blindside passengers with unexpected and unscrupulous fees," Wyden said in a statement. "The American consumer deserves far better, especially during the holiday season when families and loved ones are reuniting and air travel is stressful and costly enough without surprise costs."

The legislation is aptly called the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous Fees Act (or FAIR for short) and, if passed, orders the Department of Transportation to investigate any other ancillary fees charged to flyers to determine whether they are warranted.

The release shows that airlines accrued $35.2 billion in related flight fees in 2018, a steep increase from the $1.2 billion figure logged in 2007.

Wyden presented the legislation alongside three fellow Democratic senators from the east coast.

The act is supported by the National Consumers League, Travelers United, Consumer Reports, Consumer Federation of America, Business Travel Coalition, and Flyersrights.org,  among other consumer protection agencies.

No airlines have yet voiced support for the act.

If the legislation passes, the Department of Transportation will have nine months from the enactment of the act to establish standards for "assessing whether such fees are reasonable and proportional to the costs incurred by the air carrier," the drafted bill reads.

The determination of whether a cost is proportional will be made by looking at a number of factors including the airline's ability to find another flyer to fill a cancellation, the cost of electronically processes the cancellation or reservation change, and any related labor costs from an additionally checked bag.

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