Dems: Airlines 'nickel-and-diming' passengers with fees

Dems: Airlines 'nickel-and-diming' passengers with fees
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Senate Democrats are accusing airlines of "nickel-and-diming" passengers with fees in a new report released on Thursday.

The report found that passengers are often not informed about fees for options like selecting preferred seats, checking in and even for carry-on bags in some cases, until after they book their flight reservations.

“The traveling public is being nickel-and-dimed to death,” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (Fla.), top Democrat of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a statement.

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“What’s worse is that many flyers don’t learn about the actual cost of their travel until it’s too late,” Nelson continued.

Airlines have defended the à la carte fee options as way to offer passengers more options for air travel.

The group that lobbies for airlines in Washington, Airlines for America, said the industry keeps passengers very well informed about flight fees.

"It would be difficult to find an industry that is more transparent than airlines in their pricing," the group said in a statement that was provided to The Hill.

"The fact that a record number of people are traveling this summer further demonstrates that customers always know what they are buying before they purchase," the airline group continued. "Airfare remains a bargain, and costs considerably less and air service is far more plentiful than it was when the government last dictated pricing."

Consumer groups have complained that the fees are a money grab for airlines looking to rack up record profits at the expense of passengers.

"This report echoes the same issues Travelers United has been speaking about with DOT and members of Congress for the past years," Travelers United Chairman Charlie Loecha said in an email.

"It is time that the most recent [notice of proposed rulemaking] from DOT be released to provide more clarity for consumers when it comes to price," he continued.

The Democrats who were behind the Senate study said Thursday that airlines made $38.1 billion in fees last year, which they said is a 1,400 percent increase over the industry's take-in from ancillary charges in 2007. 

This story was last updated at 4:50 p.m.