April 18th, 2010
01:17 PM ET
13 years ago

Schumer: Five major airlines commit to no carry-on fees

Washington (CNN) - Sen. Charles Schumer announced Sunday that several major airlines have promised not to charge passengers for carry-on baggage.

Schumer, D-New York, said he personally contacted officials at American Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue, United Airlines and US Airways, and secured commitments from all five companies.

Two weeks ago, local carrier Spirit Airlines became the first in the United States to propose charging passengers $45 to store luggage in overhead bins.

"In the last week we have gained tremendous momentum in our effort to keep carry-on bags free," said Schumer. "We have begun to put the brakes on runaway and out-of-control airline fees. I am pleased some of the major carriers have responded to our efforts and have agreed not to charge for something that has always been free."

On Wednesday, Schumer introduced a bill that would amend the tax code to eliminate a loophole that he and four other senators say allows airlines to avoid taxes on certain fees. That effort came a day after two other senators put forward a bill that would change how the Federal Aviation Administration regulates carry-on baggage fees.

Spirit argued that the fee, which applies to flights booked for Aug. 1 or later, is part of a strategy to make boarding an aircraft faster and easier. The low-cost airline, which has advertised 1-cent ticket prices on some short-haul routes, said it plans to offset the increase by reducing fees for checked luggage and some fares.

"This is a free market and consumers are free to make their own choices," said Ben Baldanza, Spirit's chief executive, in a statement last week. "Spirit is all about giving customers options to choose what they want to pay for without subsidizing the choices of others."

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., countered: "It seems that air carriers are crossing a line that will end of pricing middle-class families right out of being able to fly, and that's not right. While airlines have a right to set prices, families should have the right to bring a change of clothes with them and not be gouged for it."

As a result, Menendez, Schumer and the bill's other co-authors called on the U.S. Treasury Department to close a loophole that they say gives airlines preferential tax treatment for fees on services that are not deemed "reasonably necessary" for air transportation.

Under current laws, airlines pay a 7.5 cent tax for every dollar they collect in fares, but no tax is imposed on fees collected for "non-essential" services.

The Block Airlines' Gratuitous Fees Act, or BAG Fees Act, introduced Wednesday would require that carry-on bags be considered essential and taxed at the same rate as fares.

The bill introduced Tuesday, the Free of Fees for Carry-On Act, is based on pending legislation to reauthorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.

It would prohibit fees for carry-on bags that meet existing standards for weight and size, and require carriers to make detailed information about the fees available to passengers in advance.

The goal is to ensure that passengers are not penalized for bringing items such as medication, food and laptop computers onboard, the senators said.

- CNNMoney's Ben Rooney contributed to this report.

Filed under: Charles Schumer • Robert Menendez
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Josh

    Good job Mr schumer, I thank you for voiceing our feelings about these charges these airlines are constantly putting on us.

    April 18, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. Jay Schweikert

    So, this whole business about prohibiting airlines from charging carry-on fees is emotional economics at its worst. Airlines don't charge these fees to be mean - they do it to recover their costs. And you can't make costs go away with legislation. So what will airlines do if they're forced to allow "free" carry-on luggage? They'll just charge more for their tickets! Charging for carry-on luggage, or for luggage generally, is just a more nuanced pricing scheme, that charges people more who carry more freight, and provides an incentive for people to bring less (which lowers cost, and therefore lowers how much passengers have to pay). But is any of that part of this discussion? No. It's just the age of "I don't like this, so we're going to pass a law banning it." Can't you already see the next headline? "Overweight senators propose law requiring wider seats on airplanes." It's like something out of The Onion.

    April 18, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. Silver

    The airlines need to simply enforce the existing rules. Don't allow anything beyond 1 bag that fits template. If it has wheels, it must be checked, it's not a carry-on.

    April 18, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  4. 2450

    Total socialism. Who is next if the government doesn't like your pricing? Should Intel be told to lower their prices to "get in line" with AMD? What about gas prices? How about food?


    April 18, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. FloridaRes

    Bravo to Sen Schumer and Robert Menendez! Interesting that 2 Democrats are doing this but the GOP is silent! But hey – we know that the GOP is too busy lying about Bailouts and watching out for corporate profits. What about the middle class? What about families who are flying? The GOP could care less as long as the wealthy get wealthier and the GOP pols pockets get lined!

    April 18, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  6. BobH

    Oh, for heaven's sake, aren't there any useful ways for Schumer to spend his time? I'm a Democrat, but this is just ludicrous. If an airline wants to charge for carry on luggage, or peanuts, or wider seats, that is their own business.

    Someone needs to tell Sen. Schumer he has a country to help run.

    April 18, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. Steve in North Carolina

    They ought to go one step further and tax the fees for baggage that airlines are charging. Those fees are the reason that everbody is hauling on as many carry-on items as they can and ends up cramping the cabin storage areas.

    April 18, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |