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Buh-Bye, Bag Fees? Congress Mulls Reducing Fees

SmarterTravel

How much to check your bag: $20, $25, $30, or more?

How about $4.50?

That’s what Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican, is proposing in a bill now being considered in the House of Representatives.

The legislation, entitled the “Baggage Fee Fairness Act of 2015,” would limit the amount collected for checked bags to the amount assessed by airports as passenger facility charges (PFC), currently capped at $4.50.

According to Mica, who is chairman of the House Transportation Oversight Committee:

It’s time to bring some fairness to the soaring fees that airlines are charging consumers for basic services. This is fair and equitable since airports have been held to that fee level for handling passengers at the same $4.50 limitation by law for the past 15 years. During that decade and a half, most major carriers have imposed dramatically increased baggage and service fees.

As is often the case in Washington, the bill’s real agenda may not be what it purports to be.

Mica is on record as strongly supporting higher PFCs to support facility upgrades at U.S. airports that “have significant capacity needs and face a meltdown during peak travel periods and air traffic control and weather delays.” So there’s a strong case to be made here that Mica’s real goal is to increase PFCs, not to reduce checked-bag fees.

Travel consumers are undoubtedly put off by the airlines’ incessant nickel-and-diming in general, and by checked-bag fees in particular. And they’d no doubt welcome a single low-priced surcharge in place of the wide range of high prices currently in effect. But tying bag fees to airport fees is arbitrary and probably disingenuous.

If Mica is successful in realizing his underlying agenda, travelers will end up paying more in airport fees. And bag fees likely as not would remain at their current levels. Which means that trip costs overall would be higher.

Which suggests a new tagline for Congress: Picking your pocket under the guise of saving you money.

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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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