- (Photo: Reuters / Gary Cameron)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has introduced a couple pieces of legislation that would attempt to make airline travel less of a headache for passengers and lighter on their wallets, just in time for the holiday season.
One of the proposed legislation would prohibit airlines from charging passengers for the first checked bag. The other would allow the airlines to charge fees but, if the airline chooses to do that, their taxes would be hiked.
According to CNN, that added revenue from extra taxes would raise the $260 million that the Transportation Security Administration needs to handle the extra carry-on bags. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified, according to The Washington Post, that the cost of security screening has increased as the number of checked bags has decreased by 20 percent, leading to a deficit.
Landrieu told CNN, "Many airlines consider checking a bag not to be a right, but a privilege – and one with a hefty fee attached." Her first bill would “guarantee passengers one checked bag without the financial burden of paying a fee, or the headache of trying to fit everything into a carry-on."
The U.S. Travel Association announced in a survey that two-thirds of passengers were annoyed with their fellow travelers who attempted to bring too many carry-on bags through the security checkpoint. Added carry-on bags means more wait time in security lines and less overhead room for everyone’s luggage.
Also under her proposal, travelers would be allowed one checked and one carry-on bag within size limits. The airlines must also provide free access to drinking water and toilets.
She added that her second bill would “make sure taxpayers are made whole for the stresses more congestion at security places on the system.”
The Air Transport Association opposes the two bills.
"Most in Congress understand that the airline industry was deregulated more than 30 years ago and the government should not mandate what products and services a deregulated industry should offer customers," Steve Lott, spokesman for ATA, told Fox News. He added that banning baggage fees actually makes traveling less fair to customers because it may result in a higher ticket price for all passengers and not just those who are checking bags.
The ATA has released their own survey saying that one in four passengers pays a baggage fee.
"Customers do have choice today," Lott told CNN. "In terms of fairness, you pay for the services you get. Under what the senator is suggesting, some people would be paying for a service they aren't using."
The International Air Transport Association predicts the economic situation of the airlines will get worse for 2012. In a released report, the industry has lost $25 billion over the past decade and profits are projected to be less than 1 percent in the coming year.
So while Landrieu’s proposed legislation may make travel less of a hassle for passengers, in reality it is not likely to save travelers a dime as airlines will be forced to hike up prices in other areas in order to generate the needed revenue.