House grills execs over airline-imposed fees

BURBANK, Calif. "It's extremely frustrating," said John Hendrickson, who paid a $25 baggage fee on /*United Airlines*/, and now that bag is lost. "I mean, they're so quick to charge fees and there's no recourse if they make a mistake."

The chief executive officer of /*Spirit Airlines*/, which will begin imposing fees for carry-on bags starting in August, got an earful from lawmakers on Wednesday on /*Capitol Hill*/.

"Did you realize more by unbundling and charging them a little bit less on the fare but a lot more for the bag?" Congressman /*Peter Defazio*/ (D-Ore.) asked Spirit President Ben Baldanza.

Airlines collected $7.8 billion last year in ancillary fees, most of which used to be included in the price of a ticket.

In a new report, the /*Government Accountability Office*/ insists many of those fees are hidden.

"I would like to see there be a set fee for a ticket and you know what you're getting with that and you don't have all these hidden costs," said Teresa Lusby, an airline passenger.

The /*U.S. Department of Transportation*/ is making several recommendations so that all fees are disclosed to the customer up front.

They include:

  • Clear, full-price advertising.
  • Reimbursement of baggage fees when bags are misplaced or lost.
  • Provide travel booking services with accurate information on fees and costs.
  • Provide pricing that includes all taxes and extra fees so customers will know what they're purchasing.
"What I just want to say to the airlines is, if they don't exercise restraint, there's going to be a continuing outcry from the traveling public," said Congressman /*James Oberstar*/ (D-Minn.). "And you're going to have some kind of regulation that you won't like."
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