Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill for authorizing the FAA through 2017 and, due to some of the legislation involving passengers, is being called one of the most pro-passenger bills in a while. This post is not about government legislating airline policies but more about the fact that they felt it was necessary when airlines could have just done it themselves.
Passenger Legislation That Should Never Have To Be
Included in the $7.1 billion FAA reauthorization bill (that the Senate has passed and is headed to the House) are these highlights for passengers:
- Requirement for airlines to more clearly state the fees for things like “prime seat selection, checked baggage, changes and cancellations so passengers are better able to see the bottom line when they shop for the best ticket price.”
- Requirement for airlines to refund baggage fees if the bags arrive more than six hours after a domestic flight has landed or more than 12 hours after an international flight.
- Requirement for airlines to tell parents at the time they buy tickets whether it is feasible for them to sit with their child
All of those things are linked to fees that have helped to make the US airlines the hugely profitable airlines that they are today. Of course, it is not wrong to make a profit, but here are my reasons for why the airlines should have already stepped up to put these changes/exclusions into their fee rules.
- Re: stating fees clearly – not all travelers are like us in that we love the experience and many of us know more than the airline representatives about tickets and fees! Many people start their ticket searches at Kayak or other OTAs and they pick a fare because of the cheap price and the travel time. It is too bad that it is not in the process clearly along the way (when arriving at the airline site) about the fees involved. In a way, the airline could actually make more money by highlighting these fees like AA and JetBlue have done with their extra fare selections. They tell you about the benefits you get from purchasing an advanced fare for the same ticket and that it bundles most fees together (and for cheaper). So, I would like to see this be made a bit more clear anyway and I think it could be in the airlines’ best interest to do it as well.
- Re: refund baggage fees for late baggage – this one is just crazy. I have had this happen before where I paid for the bag and I did not get it until I returned to the airport for my departure 3 days later! And they made me pay again to take it home! There is no way that an airline should feel it is acceptable to charge you for your bag when they cannot even get it to you. It would make the baggage process work a bit better if the airline put it on themselves to make sure they made bags arrive on time or else they would not get the transport fee. I mean, I can call any large, reputable company if I do not get a package when it was promised and they will refund my shipping fee. Airlines should be the same. Hey, even Dominos used to have their 30 minute delivery-or-free rule – for pizza. How about just get me my gear/clothes on time?
- Re: seating fees and parents – Yes, this can be a tough one. This is one where airlines could easily just assign the tickets a random row together since it is being done randomly anyway. But, again, the airline is making a lot of money here because they know that a parent will pay to make sure they can sit with their children. So, yes, it would be a good step to just notify parents when the reservation has minors in it as to the feasibility of sitting together. It would make the airline more family-friendly and probably make the flight attendants’ and gate agents’ lives a bit easier so they are not trying to play musical airline chairs when boarding.
I know it is a whole other discussion about government involvement with airlines. That is not exactly what I am addressing here but rather the fact that legislation like this is even being written because airlines do not make it work themselves. I think US airlines are just too busy making more revenue streams and these fees are huge for them. The family going to Florida is likely not going to travel onboard again with them for another year or two so the airline probably doesn’t feel the need to attend to their issues as much. Still, it would be nice for a couple of customer-friendly moves to be made by airlines. At least it would help them keep up with some policies/assistance that some foreign airlines are doing already.
Source: Washington Post