Flights and Points | Revenue from baggage and flight change fees hit record highs
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Revenue from baggage and flight change fees hit record highs

Revenue from baggage and flight change fees hit record highs

If it seems like airlines are taking more in various baggage and flight change fees than they have in the past, a report released in the past week has provided some hard data to help you back up these claims.

Airline fee revenue up over 10% compared to six years ago

Increases and the imposition of baggage and flight change fees at check-in counters have had travelers forking over more money in recent years ... Photo by CC user calliope on Flickr

According to the US General Accounting Office (GAO), domestic airlines in America took in $7.1 billion dollars in revenue from fees levied on baggage and flight changes in 2016.

This amount is up from $6.3 billion in 2010, meaning income from these measures has increased more than 11% from the same period six years ago.

Digging further into airline practices, it has also emerged airlines charge more for baggage when it is offered as an extra as opposed to when it is included in an airfare.

Airline fees: necessary for industry profitability or unacceptable consumer gouging?

Some may argue baggage and flight change fees have helped operators in the airline industry to shore up finances in the 2010s, as it has improved their health compared to the rough days of the 2000s when many players struggled to stay afloat after 9/11.

Nevertheless, many consumer watchdogs have sounded the alarm over deceptive tactics which have seen fliers hit with surprise fees at the check-in counter.

In the report released by the General Accounting Office, there were many mentions of consumers having a great degree of difficulty finding information online concerning additional fees.

Assuming there were none, many were caught unaware at check-in time by said fees, obligating them to pay a considerable sum for luggage they thought they could check for free.

GAO report commissioned by Senate Democrat, call for an end to ‘last-minute shakedowns’

Senator Bill Nelson is a vigorous critic of egregious baggage and flight change fees

The General Accounting Office report on ‘Airline Fees for Optional Services’ was conducted at the request of Bill Nelson, the senior Senator from the state of Florida.

The top Democrat on the Commerce committee during the Obama administration and a long-time critic of airline industry practices, Senator Nelson commented that the time has come for “… the airlines to stop charging runaway fees”.

Likening undisclosed baggage and flight change fees as a ‘last-minute shakedown’, the Senator went on to opine that Americans shouldn’t have to show up “… with a suitcase full of clothes and a suitcase full of money just to get on the plane.”

Richard Blumenthal, the senior Democratic senator from Connecticut, concurred with his colleague’s conclusions, adding that “… fees are shrouded in secrecy and clouded in confusion, making it nearly impossible for passengers to price compare and make informed choices.”

He went on make the point that the motivations of airlines in charging these fees were not to improve the customer experience or offset costs but to pursue “… greater profits.”

Industry lobby group responds to fee criticism

Airlines for America, a trade organization which represents the interests of American carriers and lobbies politicians on behalf of its members, responded to the release of the GAO report.

According to a press release issued this week, they maintained that separate baggage and flight change fees have resulted in fares that are historically low levels since the airline industry was deregulated in 1978.

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