Airlines and hotel resort fees came up during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech this week in the US Capitol. Let’s take a look at what he said and the potential ramifications.
Biden: Airlines “Can’t Just Treat Your Child Like A Piece Of Luggage”
During his State of the Union speech, Biden pivoted to travel, including airlines and resort fees.
“I know how unfair it feels when a company overcharges you and gets away with it.
We’ve written a bill to stop all that. It’s called the Junk Fee Prevention Act.
We’ll ban surprise “resort fees” that hotels tack on to your bill. These fees can cost you up to $90 a night at hotels that aren’t even resorts.”
That’s music to my ears, but will the final Junk Free Prevention Act actually ban so-called “resort fees” or merely require their immediate disclosure when booking? Frankly, I don’t care…however hotels want to play games with taxes and fees, I simply need to know all-in pricing from the very moment I search for space. Such clarity is necessary and such transparency is critical in maintaining and fostering a competitive system of commerce. Will the GOP-led House pass it?
Next, Biden pivoted to airlines.
While fares may no longer be regulated by the Civil Aeronautics Board, the airline industry is deeply intertwined with the federal government and the politicians who fund it. After a series of bailouts during the pandemic, airliners are even more beholden to the federal government and as part of that relationship, the Biden Administration has mulled a number of protections it asserts will better protect airline consumers.
“And we’ll prohibit airlines from charging up to $50 roundtrip for families just to sit together.
Baggage fees are bad enough – they can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage.
Americans are tired of being played for suckers.”
Here’s where I am not sure I am in full agreement. The very business models of ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines depend upon unbundling everything from the price of the seat. If I was in charge, families wishing to sit together would be forced to pay in advance for seating or else they would not be allowed to book, just like you cannot book an eight-year-old on a solo flight. That strikes me as the better solution.
My desire for airline regulation would be less about seat assignment fees and more for a sort of EU261/2004 model that protects consumers in the case of long delays and cancellations. For example, I wrote about my trials with Delta yesterday and think that federal regulators should mandate that if an airline sells you a ticket from A to B, it is responsible for getting you from A to B regardless of which partner may be operating the flights. You sell the ticket, you are on the hook for it…
Biden has promised to crack down on hotel resort fees (great) and seat assignment fees for families (more complicated). Whatever ultimately happens, the primary goal should be transparency.
On a personal note, the State of the Union used to be something so special to me…a speech in which I’d be almost as eager as Sheila Jackson Lee to watch each year. But for the last several years, spanning two administrations, I increasingly see it as tedious grandstanding. Maybe it’s time for presidents to deliver written reports to Congress, as in years past? Then again, who am I kidding? The free media exposure is too great to pass up, so the theatrics will continue.
image: White House