Agency to Make Major|Airlines Specify Fees

     WASHINGTON (CN) – With baggage fees at major airlines increasing over 700 percent since 2005, the U.S. Department of Transportation plans to make more detailed airline fee information available to the public and analysts, to see where the money goes.
Cancellation fees almost tripled, and fees marked “miscellaneous” more than doubled between 2005 and 2009 for major airlines, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
     Besides cancellation, reservation change, and baggage fees, a consumer is not able to compare airline prices adequately because fees may be mixed together with other revenues, in the “miscellaneous fees” category and other categories. The type of fee charged also has tax consequences.
     Airlines have adopted fees for: checked baggage, carry-on baggage, meals, on-board entertainment, internet connections, pillows, blankets, advance or upgraded seating, telephone reservations, early boarding, canceled or changed reservations, transportation of unaccompanied minors, pet transportation, and third-party services such as hotel rooms, car rentals, pick-up and delivery services, among other charges.
     The Transportation Department has proposed a form for airlines to list fees that are not related to baggage or airline reservations. The department seeks public comment on the completeness of the list.
     The department also plans to collect more information on missing wheelchairs and scooters, “to determine the magnitude of the problem,” since it may affect a person’s decision on whether or not to travel by air, according to the proposed rule.
     The department also plans to revise the way mishandled bags are counted, to reflect changes in consumer behavior since airlines started to charge a fee for each bag checked. Comparison of actual mishandled bags to numbers of bags checked would replace comparison of the number of mishandled baggage reports to the number of passengers.

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