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jul 16 2010

Hidden airline fees to become thing of the past?

(Courtesy Andrea_F/Flickr)

It turns out, members of Congress are just as fed up with airline fees as the rest of us.

The federal watchdog Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report calling for airlines to disclose more information up front about hidden costs for checked bags and other services. "The fees are not very transparent," said Gerald Dillingham, the GAO report author, during a congressional hearing. "We do not think it would be a tremendous burden on the airlines" to make that information more clear.

More interesting still, the GAO seems to suggest that the government should extend its tax on airfares to the additional fees. By the GAO's estimate, the government could have made some $186 million last year alone—just by taxing fees on checked bags.

For the airlines' part, a spokesperson says that "airlines fully support price transparency."

That may be true, but at least one of them, Spirit Airlines, doesn't seem all that sympathetic to travelers.

Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza told Congress that bringing luggage on vacation was "not essential to travel." He went on to defend their $20 carry-on bag fee by saying that unbundling all "services not essential to the transportation of passengers has enabled more passengers to fly at lower cost. Indeed given our low fares, it has allowed many to travel who otherwise simply could not afford to do so."

For our part, I'm not sold on Baldanza's theory—but maybe that's just because I like to have at least a change of clothes and toothbrush on hand for a trip. Those, at least, are certainly "essential" in my book. I'm all for traveling light, but that's not possible on every trip.

What do you think?

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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