Video: Battle of the baggage fees

  1. Closed captioning of: Battle of the baggage fees

    >>> outside assistance.

    >>> and not so fast. a group of senators is taking aim at a new and controversial airline fee. spirit airlines recently announced plans to charge passengers up to $45 to bring bags onboard but now six lawmakers want to tax any u.s. airline charging people for carryon bags. joining me live from capitol hill one of those lawmakers, democratic senator from minnesota , thank you, senator, for joining us.

    >> good to be on.

    >> so many people would love to give you a high five on this one. i'm not sure anybody who is defending the airlines other than maybe the airlines but why did you decide to take it to the next level here and possibly cost them rather than costing the passengers?

    >> well, a group of us including chuck schumer of new york said enough is enough. first they charge you for your carry on bags. then they charge you for a pillow and a blanket, then if you want a window seat and the next thing you know they'll charge you if you just use the bathroom on the airplane. so we felt it was very important to send this clear message that this has to stop. if you look at what this means, just for a carry-on bag, if you want to bring your clothes, you're gone for a weekend, 45 bucks . let's say a family of four goes to disney land and they have carry-on bags. i know my daughter would always bring her backpack with her school work . four carry-on bags, $45, that would be 180 bucks for a family of four in addition to the ticket price. and, you know, spirit airline is no longer service with a smile . it's service with a cash register .

    >> i want to read what the ceo of spirit airlines said to " usa today " in an op-ed. he said, quote , our decision to charge fees for carry-on bags relieves the carry-on crisis, smoogts out the boarding process, and reduces delays, all for the same total price or less. the new system will be a win for every passenger because we expect lower total prices, faster security lines, a smoother boarding process, faster deplaning and improved passenger safety because of fewer overstuffed bins. he says it's a win-win. you don't buy that?

    >> no. i think you can ask about 99% of passengers, if you said okay. you can either pay 45 bucks or you can wait one more minute while an 8-year-old gets her backpack out of the carry-on luggage compartment . i think they'll pick a wait a second. i'll wait ten seconds. that's just ridiculous. and i have not seen a lot of problem in getting on planes. we all know it takes a while. they have you go on by sections. sometimes they go quite quickly. i just think that's ridiculous when you compare that to 180 bucks in extra charges for a family of four.

    >> let me ask you. obviously if you are successful in getting this tax for these airlines to do this one would just assume they will do what so many other companies do, pass the cost right along to the passenger. what would prevent that?

    >> well, we're seeing this as a deterrent effect and actually there are two bills. i'm also on another bill that actually says they can't do this at all. it's banned. so we'll see which one -- that is an easier way to do it but we're not sure where that will go and we'll work on both of them. on this one, the whole idea is that it would be a deterrent for them doing it because what they're doing right now because they're not taxed on these extra add-on fees when you have to pay for trail mix and things like that, they keep adding these fees so it doesn't really reflect the true price of a ticket. and then it is really hard for competition to work. because it's very difficult to price compare when you're deciding how much it's going to cost you to go from minneapolis to chicago . it's very difficult if you don't really know what the true cost of a flight is until you get on it.

    >> well, senator, it's always great to have you on. i tell you, when you walk through the airports today or whenever you're going to be really popular walking through there. thank you.

    >> we hope this'll end.

    >> thank you very much .

    >>> a scathing new report is

updated 4/15/2010 12:49:42 PM ET 2010-04-15T16:49:42

Six Democratic senators want to hit U.S. airlines with a tax if they charge passengers for their carry-on bags.

The senators said Wednesday that this would keep more airlines from following Spirit Airlines' lead. The small Florida airline said last week that starting Aug. 1 it will charge its customers as much as $45 to bring a bag aboard its aircraft and put it in an overhead bin.

Air travelers have been forced to pay a barrage of fees for once-free amenities since 2008, for everything from checked bags to pillows to food. That has not stopped them from flying, but critics say charging for carry-on bags is stepping over the line.

The senators — Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Charles Schumer of New York, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey — want a law that would designate carry-on baggage as a necessity for air travelers.

Airlines currently pay a 7.5-cent tax to the federal government for every dollar they collect in fares, but no tax is imposed on fees collected for nonessential services, the senators said. They said the Treasury Department last January ruled that carry-on bags are not essential for air travel.

"As a result, airlines can impose fees on these bags without paying any tax to the federal government on the revenues they collect," the senators said. "This creates a tax incentive for airlines to try to bilk consumers in the form of fees rather than by increasing the fares."

Separately, Cardin and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Tuesday they had introduced a bill that would effectively prohibit airlines from charging fees for carry-on luggage and require advanced disclosure of special, often higher fees for specialty checked items. The bill is based on an amendment the two senators proposed last month to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill.

Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that the airline is reaching out to all the senators' offices to clarify information that Spirit believes has been misrepresented in the media.

Video: Senators fight airline baggage fees "We are confident that once they see the complete story that they will agree that this is for the benefit of all customers," Pinson said of the carry-on bag fees.

Other airlines will be watching closely to see if the carry-on bag fee announced by Spirit on April 6 will bring in revenue and not drive away passengers. If so, other airlines could follow suit. None have indicated any plans to do so.

Spirit's new charge for a carry-on for most travelers is $45 if paid at the gate, and $30 if paid in advance.

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Add-on fees have been an important source of revenue for airlines since oil prices soared to an all-time high of $147 a barrel in July 2008. Those fees became a mainstay for airlines' bottom lines even after fuel prices plunged.

It's unclear whether the anti-carry-on fees legislation will gain traction among Republicans and win support in Congress.

Asked about the issue Wednesday, Shaheen seemed confident.

"I think it's important to take a stand on behalf of consumers," Shaheen said in an interview.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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