US Senate Investigates Airline Fee Transparency

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An investigation will be undertaken by the United States Senate into airline fees pertaining to seat selection, cargo, ticket modifications, and additional services.

Richard Blumenthal, chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and a Democrat, said that fees are frequently concealed and perplexing.

Blumenthal and his group have petitioned the main U.S. airlines—including American, Delta, Frontier, Spirit, and United—to provide a comprehensive breakdown of the fee structures, the revenue generated by each airline, the expenses associated with providing each service, and the rationale behind their implementation.

Blumenthal told reporters that “U.S. airlines increasingly charge ancillary fees that obscure the actual cost of air travel. These itemized fees are often not disclosed to customers until well into the ticket purchasing process or after a ticket has been purchased, making it difficult for customers to know the true, total cost of a ticket and comparison shop prior to purchase.”

Blumenthal discovered information in his research indicating that the eight largest airlines in the United States charged approximately $4.2 billion in seat selection fees. Furthermore, between 2018 and 2022, the aggregate revenue generated from baggage fees surged from $4.9 billion to $6.8 billion.

The U.S. Department of Transportation put forth a proposal for new regulations last year, which would mandate airlines to provide information regarding fees associated with baggage, ticket adjustments, and family seating as soon as an airfare is displayed onsite.

Early in 2024, the Department of Transportation anticipates approving the new regulations.

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