And it’s the wrong answer.

In a recent column about luggage, I suggested that a simple rulemaking by the Transportation Department could compel airlines to include one piece of checked luggage as part of the base fare. I recommended that readers write the DOT to let it know they supported such action.

The government was ready with a cookie-cutter response.

Here’s what it sent to the concerned taxpayers who took the time to write.

Thank you for your recent message concerning fees for checked baggage. We can appreciate your interest in this issue.

Congress deregulated air fares a number of years ago. The Department of Transportation has no authority to regulate the prices that airlines charge for air transportation services, including fees for checked bags. Transporting a checked bag costs an airline more than transporting a carry-on bag, and some airlines and individuals feel that passengers who do not check a bag should not be required to share the cost of checked baggage. A similar ‘unbundling” concept for services and prices has appeared for in-flight meals and beverages, and for purchasing a ticket from a reservations agent (as opposed to online).

As indicated above, DOT cannot regulate the amount an airline charges for checked baggage, whether or not those charges are included in the advertised fare, and currently there are no regulations that prohibit airlines from charging separately for checked baggage. However, DOT has taken steps to ensure that consumers are not misled by airlines in the charges they assess for baggage. In this regard, on May 13, 2008, DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office issued detailed guidance to the airline industry designed to ensure that prospective air travelers receive timely and effective notice about charges for checked bags. We also have a rule that prohibits airlines from charging for assistive devices tendered as checked baggage by passengers with disabilities (e.g., a wheelchair or walker).

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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  • Elliott

    Christopher Elliott has been called one of the world’s leading travel experts. But his focus isn’t on the destination, or ev…

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