Airlines have a genius for aggravation, but travelers usually have no options. They are captive to the airlines’ schedule changes, their delays, their flights filled with the help of Internet algorithms and seating tighter than ever.
But in recent years airlines have found a new means of annoyance – fees. They have added fees for bags and early boarding and boosted charges for changing flights even as they have cut back on in-flight service and enjoyed big savings from lower fuel prices.
Now comes a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered traveler. A Senate report released last week says it’s time for the government to crack down on fees.
The report, compiled by the staff of the Senate commerce committee, found that fees are arbitrarily set without any relation to the airlines’ actual cost. It’s a case of charging what the traffic will bear.
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“The traveling public is being nickel-and-dimed to death,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s top Democrat. “What’s worse is that many fliers don’t learn about the actual cost of their travel until it’s too late.”
Nelson plans to seek action on the report’s recommendations when the Senate begins to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration later this year.
The action is overdue. Airline regulation was eased to promote competition, but airlines responded by weakening competition by merging. That expanded their clout over airports and travelers alike. If the market won’t provide more options for air travel, then the government should provide protection from gouging.