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Lavatory-Use Fees? There Oughta Be a Law!

SmarterTravel

Although rarely taken too seriously, it has become a recurring grumble among the travel-focused that the airlines’ nickel-and-diming would inevitably lead to imposing fees to use the onboard restroom. And given the industry’s propensity for turning every transaction into a revenue opportunity, a tinkle tax doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

At least one frequent traveler takes that threat literally. And as a federal lawmaker, he’s in a position to act on his concerns.

Daniel Lipinski, Democratic Representative from Illinois, last week introduced the Comfortable and Fair Flights Act of 2015, which, among other provisions, would formally bar airlines from charging fees for lavatory access.

According to the Congressman:

More and more, when airline passengers get on a flight they expect to suffer from uncomfortable conditions; as a frequent flyer I understand this. One thing they should never have to worry about is access to a bathroom. Unfortunately, commercial flights are not required to depart with a functioning bathroom, sometimes forcing passengers to endure a trip without this basic necessity. Moreover, as ancillary fees continue to grow, the specter of an in-flight bathroom fee continues to loom in the background since first being broached in 2010.

Lipinski is apparently alluding to comments made by Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, who is known for remarks designed more to provoke than to inform. His 2010 claim that Ryanair was studying lavatory fees had travelers and the media in a tizzy, generating millions of dollars of publicity for the airline. The idea was never implemented, by Ryanair or any other carrier.

But that’s not to say it couldn’t or wouldn’t be implemented, and the Illinois Congressman wants to ensure that it never is. His bill would outlaw lav fees, and allow flyers to change flights fee-free if their plane was found to have non-functioning toilets prior to departure. A third provision would require the airlines to refund bag fees for any luggage not delivered within two hours of a flight’s arrival.

Of the bill’s measures, Lipinski says “These are all common sense provisions that will help protect the consumer rights of passengers.” No argument, although the lav-fee ban seems a bit like tilting at windmills. The problem with this bill is not so much its content as its lack of content, its narrowness. Travelers need and deserve a more comprehensive passenger-rights bill, that addresses issues of safety and comfort and transparency.

The focus on preventing an unlikely outcome is a distraction from the industry’s many real problems, and of little help in advancing the important cause of travelers’ rights.

Reader Reality Check

When it comes to travelers’ rights, what’s uppermost in your mind?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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