National Consumers League

DOT’s gift to the big three airlines is coal in passengers’ stockings


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December 7, 2017

Contact: Cindy Hoang, (202) 207-2832 or cindyh@nclnet.org

Washington, DC--The Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced that it will abandon efforts to address rampant add-on fees that are major irritants for millions of consumers. By withdrawing two key rulemakings -- the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Ancillary Airline Passenger Revenues and the Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees -- the DOT is signaling that it will allow airlines to continue taking money from consumers’ pockets and generating billions of dollars worth of add-on fees without any meaningful oversight. 

The following statement is attributable to Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League:

“The Big Three airlines just got an early Christmas present from the DOT and airline passengers got scrooged. The fees juggernaut driven by the legacy airlines that saddles consumers with add-on fees shows no sign of slowing. In 2017, the Big Three U.S. airlines -- American, Delta, and United -- collected more than $11 billion dollars in ancillary revenue in the face of growing outrage by the flying public over this rampant nickel-and-diming. 

Under the Obama Administration, at the urging of consumer advocates, the DOT began the long overdue process of examining the effect of these fees on the flying public and ways to ensure that airlines can’t hide these fees in fine print. Since 2010, these fees have increased by 13%. Because these fees are exempted from excise taxes, they are doubly lucrative for the airlines, costing taxpayers $309 million annually, according to the GAO.

The administration’s decision, a top priority of the industry, will lead to decreased competition, and add needless cost and confusion to consumer’s shopping experience. Simply requiring airlines to publish the full price of a ticket, including baggage fees, is not too much to ask. In its recent study, the GAO identified the differences in airlines’ a la carte systems, as pain points for consumers and a contributor to the rising cost of airline travel for consumers. 

Today’s actions show that the risk of regulatory capture at the Trump DOT is very real. Congress must step in and take action to protect consumers through the passage of the FAIR Fees Act, a bill that would ensure that ancillary fees are reasonable and proportional to the cost of providing a service.“

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.