Airlines collected $1 billion in baggage fees in Q3

Airlines collected $1 billion in baggage fees in Q3
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Airlines collected $1 billion in baggage fees in the third quarter of 2015, according to statistics released this week by the Department of Transportation. 

The department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the figure, officially $1,019,000, is $59 million more than was collected by airlines in the third quarter of 2014.

The figure is also a $57 million more in baggage fees than passengers paid in the second quarter of 2015, the group said. 

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Airport groups have seized on the numbers to criticize airlines for opposing efforts to limit how much airports may charge passengers to help pay for facility improvements. 

"While the airlines have filled their stockings with more than $1 billion in quarterly bag fee revenues, they continue to play the Grinch when it comes to airport local self-help to build better facilities for the traveling public," American Association of Airport Executives President Todd Hauptli said in a statement. 

"The carriers' continued position of 'Bah Humbug' when it comes to modernizing the local Passenger Facility Charge program runs contrary to the interests of the traveling public — a fact made very clear as passengers take to the skies during the busy holiday season," Hauptli continued. 

Airports have been pushing Congress to nearly double the maximum charge that is added to every plane ticket, 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 billions of dollars in baggage fees each year while they are charging passengers more for flights. 

"The problem of overflowing overhead bins on planes has been created by the airlines themselves," the Arlington, Va.-based Travelers United group said in a blog post earlier this year. 

"These are the unintended consequences of baggage fee greed and the airlines’ efforts to keep the billions of dollars of extra-fee income flowing," the group continued. 

Airlines have defended their decision in recent years to charge baggage fees, saying it allows passengers to choose how much luggage they want to bring on flights. 

"We think it’s unfortunate that the airports want to put coal in the stockings of all travelers in the form of unnecessary higher taxes," the group that lobbies for most major airlines in Washington, Airlines for America, said.

"Comparing revenue from optional ancillary services to mandatory tax hikes that passengers are forced to pay every time they fly is misleading at best, as it completely ignores that fact that Airports across our country are in a very strong financial position, already receiving billions of dollars from passengers and the government alike," the airline group continued. "Simply put, you have a choice about whether to check a bag. You do not have a choice about whether to land at an airport." 

-This story was updated with new information at 4:58 p.m.