Politician Wants to Cap Checked Bag Fees

Congressman John Mica (R-FL) has introduced a bill that would limit the amount airlines could charge passengers for checked baggage to $4.50. Why $4.50? That’s the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) that airports tack onto the cost of every airline ticket.

Mica, who serves as Chairman of the House Transportation Oversight Subcommittee, says, “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. During that decade and a half, most major carriers have imposed dramatically increased baggage and service fees. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

As Brad Tuttle reports for money.com, airports are limited to $4.50 for each leg of a journey, and, in the case of a flight with multiple layovers, are capped at a maximum of $9 per one-way trip and $18 per round trip. The money is used—or at least is supposed to be used—to fund airport infrastructure maintenance and improvements.

Mica, however, believes that this is not the case. Although airlines are reaping the rewards of increased baggage fees, those revenues are not directly contributing to improvement in airport infrastructure. As Jelisa Castrodale points out on roadwarriors.com, Mica prepared a Congressional report in May called “U.S. Airports in Crisis,” highlighting the key infrastructure crisis that our domestic airports are facing.

Castrodale notes that Airlines for America, the country’s largest airline trade association, has criticized Mica’s proposal, stating, “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.”  Indeed, it is difficult to think of an airport project in America that has been halted due to a lack of resources.

Yet Checked Bag Fees Add Up

In the not too distant past, airlines charged nothing to check one—or even two—bags. The practice of tacking on fees of $25 or more per bag is now commonplace. This has resulted in a huge windfall for the airline industry. Revenue garnered from airline fees has tripled since 2008. According to statistics from the Department of Transportation, airlines collectively took in $3.6 billion in extra baggage fees in 2014, a 5.3% increase from 2013.

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