Democratic have lawmakers introduced a bill to end “ridiculous” airline fees.
The Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act — sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) — argues that fees for baggage, seating, and cancellation are “not reasonable and proportional to the costs of the services actually provided.”
A press release from Markey’s office explained:
Too often, airlines blindside travelers with exorbitant charges at checkout caused by unexpected fees for basic aviation services. This price gouging has grown exponentially as a business practice over the last decade. In 2019 — the last full year before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted air travel — airlines worldwide collected $109.5 billion in ancillary fee revenue, up nearly fivefold from $22.6 billion in 2010. That same year, U.S. domestic airlines collected $5.8 billion in baggage and $2.8 billion in ticket reservation fees alone.
“As we build back better from the pandemic, it’s time to ground rising airline fees that costs [sic] air travelers a pretty penny in the skies,” said Markey. “Airlines should not be able to bilk passengers just because they need to check a couple of bags, or charge an extra fee so parents can sit with their kids. It should not cost more to cancel or change an airline reservation than the original cost of the ticket, period.”
“During this holiday season — when so many are seeing their loved ones for the first time since the public health crisis began — we must finally end this price gouging and return fairness to the skies. That’s why I’m so proud to lead this important consumer protection legislation, and I thank my colleagues for their partnership.”
The lawmakers are not alone. In July, President Biden signed an executive order that directed the Department of Transportation to create new rules surrounding refunds when baggage is delayed or other airline services remain unfulfilled.
Despite the Democratic officials’ moves, ancillary fees are an increasingly important dimension of competition between airlines. A 2017 report from McKinsey & Company explained that optimized airfare revenue hinges upon “a bundled model that considers not only ticket price but also the probability that passengers will purchase other goods and services from the airline before, during, and after their journey.”
Other progressive lawmakers are seeking to tax the emerging space tourism industry. Days after Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos launched successful civilian flights to space, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) proposed the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act, which would establish a new excise tax on commercial space flights carrying human passengers for purposes other than scientific research.
According to Blumenauer’s office:
As this budding space tourism industry takes shape, Blumenauer is particularly concerned about the environmental impact of sending humans into space, particularly when there is no scientific value associated with the launch. The number of trips to space are expected to increase, with Virgin Galactic planning to eventually launch a shuttle of passengers into space, on average, every 32 hours.
While proponents of suborbital space flights point to transatlantic flights as having similar carbon footprints, these flights carry significantly more passengers and travel much farther. The result is space launches accounting for an estimated 60-times greater emissions than transatlantic flights on a per-passenger basis, enough to drive a car around the earth and more than twice the carbon budget recommended in the Paris Climate Agreement.
“Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some,” Blumenauer said. “I’m not opposed to this type of space innovation. However, things that are done purely for tourism or entertainment, and that don’t have a scientific purpose, should in turn support the public good.”