Lawmakers call airline carry-on bag fees ‘skyway robbery’

Bloomberg News

Airline fees for carry-on bags were deemed “a slap,” “outrageous” and “skyway robbery” as six Democratic senators moved to ban the practice after Spirit Airlines Inc. said it would charge passengers as much as $45 to stow luggage in overhead airplane compartments.

“Let my briefcase go,” Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said at a news conference Wednesday in Washington. “We’re going from the sublime to the ridiculous with airlines.”

Carriers are seeking revenue beyond ticket sales with fees for checked baggage, seat assignments, snacks and pillows as fares last year stagnated at 1998 levels amid the recession. Lawmakers introduced legislation to ban carry-on fees after closely held Spirit said April 6 that it would charge $30 if paid in advance and $45 at the gate starting in August.

“When you charge for a carry-on bag it’s a slap for anyone who flies,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “It’s time to draw the line.”


Schumer said he also would press for legislation to tax carry-on fees unless Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner used his power to do so.

The carry-on charge is part of a broader fare and fee restructuring by Spirit, which the Miramar, Fla., company says will lower some passengers’ costs, speed up boarding and lines at security checkpoints and reduce delays.

Spirit is contacting the senators “to clarify information that has been misrepresented in the media,” said Misty Pinson, a company spokeswoman.