Ruth to the Rescue: Airline fee crackdown?


Travelers at Detroit Metro Airport are either furious about airline fees -- "They're too expensive. They're more than the flight sometimes," said Latoya Welcome of Detroit, as she waited for a flight -- or they're learning to work around the extra cost.

"If its a short trip, I bring my roller bag. So. I'm just getting used to it, I think," said Heather Awad, of Minneapolis.

New Report, New Questions

Now, a report from staffers working for the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is urging the Department of Transportation to crackdown on airline fees. The department has the power to investigate and prohibit "unfair or deceptive" practices in the airline industry.

"I'm not a fan of bag fees, and I generally think that airlines overcharge people," said Sam Myers, of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The people who wrote the Senate report are wondering the same thing. Their investigation found there seems to be no connection between the baggage fees you pay and what it actually costs to transport your luggage.

"For example, many airlines charge a fee for a second checked bag that is substantially higher than the fee for the first checked bag, even though there appears to be no cost justification other than increased profit for doing so," the report reads.

Some travelers find the baggage fees especially infuriating, since most of us need to bring some clothes and other supplies for our trips.

"I think its ridiculous. You know, its something that you're made to do. Everyone knows a traveler has their packed bags," said Latoya Welcome, of Detroit.

The Senate report also found many fees appear to be hidden or confusing to consumers. At Detroit Metro, travelers say the level of transparency can vary widely.

"Some airlines are, and some it's really mysterious and you get to the end and you're shocked," said Awad.

"They don't tell you about the hidden fees, until after you book the flight. So, you're kind of locked in," added Welcome.

Airline Response

A spokesperson from Airlines for America disagrees.

Jean Medina released a statement: "It would be difficult to find an industry that is more transparent than airlines in their pricing."

Delta Fined Over Court Case

Meantime, a federal judge has fined Delta $2.7 million for failing to produce evidence in a lawsuit against the carrier over baggage fees. A group of passengers alleges that Delta and AirTran conspired in 2008 to impose baggage fees. At the time, the two airlines were the main competitors in Atlanta.

The case has been going on for years, and the judge is clearly losing patience. Delta had already been fines another $4.8 million in previous penalties in the same case. Separately, the judge approved class-action status for the lawsuit.

Ruth to the Rescue reached out to Delta for a comment on the suit, and has not heard back.

Less Glamorous Era

For travelers old enough to remember, air travel has certainly lost some of its luster. One young traveler, 22 year old Sam Myers, told Ruth to the Rescue he's heard from his grandparents about a more glamorous period in air travel.

"Flying used to be very enjoyable and pleasurable and luxurious. "Now ... it's always a hassle. I mean there's nothing pleasant about flying anymore," said Myers.

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida says he will press his Senate colleagues to take action on the report when it works on legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration later this year.

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