Airline-fee disclosure may be added to aviation-funding legislation


Airlines and travel agents would have to disclose all fees for checked bags, food and seating assignments before U.S. passengers purchase tickets under a provision that may be added to aviation-funding legislation.

Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said today he is trying to add the requirement to a $34.6 billion measure, now before the Senate, funding the Federal Aviation Administration for two years.

U.S. airlines have been increasing revenue by assessing fees, as airfares stagnated last year at 1998 levels, according to government figures. Fees for checking bags at the five largest airlines may reach $1.76 billion this year, according to a January report by IdeaWorks, an airline consulting firm in Shorewood, Wisconsin.

“When you buy a ticket you should have the right to know what you are paying for,” Menendez said on the Senate floor today. “My amendment shines a light on airline surcharges.”

It’s too difficult for consumers to find which fees, such as charges for flying a pet or checking a bag, may be assessed at the time they make their purchase, Menendez said.

Fees give passengers “the greatest possible choice,” David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, said in response to Menendez’s plan.

The fees also ensure “that those who want the lowest fares will not be forced to subsidize passengers who want additional services,” Castelveter said in an e-mail.

The Washington-based industry group’s members include Delta Air Lines Inc., AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and Southwest Airlines Co.