In a move that should surprise absolutely no one the Fair Fees Act isn’t a part of FAA reauthorization that will be voted on this week.
Banning airlines from charging fees for things like baggage or changes over cost was a dumb idea, but that’s not why it’s dropped of course. Republicans control Congress and the Executive Branch.
However it’s an anti-consumer idea masquerading as pro-consumer.
- Ultra low cost carriers are more reliant on fees than the largest airlines. They’re the ones hurt most, and their business model has been driving down airfares that all the airlines charge. Eliminating their business model isn’t good for the airfares we all pay.
- You don’t just get to eliminate fees and save money, assume airlines will just take less in exchange for transportation. There will need to be higher fares, where those aren’t supported there would be fewer flights.
Airlines are one of the businesses that annoy their customers the most. And airlines are already one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country. Deregulation largely meant the government no longer decides who flies where and at what price. And airlines got their own regulatory agency in exchange, most businesses just follow Federal Trade Commission rules rather than having micro-level decisions dictated and reviewed by the Department of Transportation.
Indeed much of air travel is dictated or carried out directly by governments. Nearly all commercial airports in the U.S. are owned by governments (and in many jurisdictions governments don’t even compete with each other, with airports in the same region controlled by the same agency). Airport security is carried out by government, rather than government setting standards and reviewing performance (a conflict of interest, regulating themselves, that leads to worse performance). Air traffic is run by the government, again rather than just setting standards and reviewing for safety.
There’s less competition in business models, little space for new market entrants, and so airlines are very similar. We need government to stop protecting airlines, and less regulatory capture by airlines, if we want more consumer-focused businesses.
Meanwhile the FAA reauthorization bill includes a number of provisions other than ‘Fair Fees’ that are worth noting.
- A legal ban on smoking e-cigarettes and making cell phone calls inflight, both of which already are not permitted.
- Ban on placing live animals in overhead bins (United, cough, United)
- Requirement for airlines to permit passengers with small children to check strollers
- A demand that the Department of Transportation determine whether it’s unfair or deceptive for airlines to declare a flight delay or cancellation is due to weather when there are other causes besides weather.
- Granting DOT authority to require airlines to allow early boarding for pregnant women.
- Loosen rules for supersonic travel. While there remain technical challenges to economical engines, there are new versions of the Concorde on the horizon
- Greater penalties for interfering with flight attendants and pilots. As though you didn’t already have to respect their authoritah. Expect more outsourcing of airline customer service to law enforcement.
- And the Space Force cometh,
It also directs the FAA to establish an Office of Spaceports to provide guidance, support licensing for spaceports, and promote infrastructure improvements for future space travel.