GOP bill would cap airline bag fees at $4.50

GOP bill would cap airline bag fees at $4.50
© Getty Images

A Republican lawmaker is introducing legislation to limit the amount that airlines can charge passengers for checking luggage to $4.50.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), would bring baggage fees down to the amount that airports are allowed charge passengers to help pay for facility improvements.  

Mica said, "it’s time to bring some fairness to the soaring fees that airlines are charging consumers for basic services. 

ADVERTISEMENT
“This is fair and equitable since airports have been held to that fee level for handling passengers at the same $4.50 limitation by law for the past 15 years," he said in a statement.  

"During that decade and a half, most major carriers have imposed dramatically increased baggage and service fees," Mica continued. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander." 

Airports have been pushing Congress to nearly double the Passenger Facility Charge that is added to every plane ticket by raising it from $4.50 to $8.50. 

Airlines have resisted the proposal to increase the facility fees, arguing that passengers are already charged enough fees by the federal government when they purchase plane tickets. 

Consumer groups have complained that airlines raked in $3.5 billion in baggage fees last year while they are opposing airport efforts to win support for a facility fee increase. 

Mica's office noted Wednesday that "baggage fees are not included in the ticket price, limiting funds that go into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund which finances airport safety and air traffic control systems and equipment." 

The group that lobbies for airlines in Washington, Airlines for America, said the proposed cap on baggage fees "is a misguided attempt to increase the passenger facility charge... that the airports would like to needlessly increase by 90 percent. "

"Congressman Mica knows well that the government stopped dictating air travel pricing back in 1978, when it cost nearly 61 percent more (adjusted for inflation) for people to fly than it did last year," the group said in a statement provided to The Hill.

"Airlines support infrastructure investment, having spent some $70 billion on projects that are either completed, underway or approved at the nation’s 30 largest airports since 2008," the airline group's statement continued.

"What’s good for travelers is to not nearly double the tax they pay to step foot in an airport when airports have more than enough resources to invest in infrastructure today. That is why airports can’t point to a single project that’s not moving forward due to a lack of resources."

Consumer advocacy groups, meanwhile, praised Mica for introducing legislation they said would tip the scales in favor of passengers after a string of federally-approved mergers greatly reduced the number of U.S. airlines in operation. 

"A series of mergers over the past decade has virtually eliminated competition and left three major carriers in near-complete control over passengers’ available options, enabling those add-ons that blindside us every time we approach the ticket counter," Travelers' Voice Executive Director Trey Bohn said in a statement. 

"In addition to higher fares, passengers are paying more in ancillary fees, which are non-taxable revenue for the airlines," Bohn continued. "In 2014 alone, airlines collected a jaw-dropping $3.5 billion in tax-free revenue from baggage fees. Shrinking options and competition means passengers will continue to get sucker-punched."

The Passenger Facility Charge was first established by Congress in 1990. The FAA says "airports use these fees to fund FAA-approved projects that enhance safety, security, or capacity; reduce noise; or increase air carrier competition."

--This report was updated at 5:47 p.m.