Airline travelers often enjoy riding high in the sky, but that’s not where they want their ticket prices. However as Congress debates the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill in the coming weeks, over-regulation threatens to make the skies a lot less friendly, leaving consumers at baggage claim with higher fares and fewer choices.
One amendment currently included in the FAA re-authorization bill is the FAIR Fees Act, which its sponsors claim will protect consumers from fees. In reality, this amendment is anything but fair. It will actually make it more expensive for hardworking people and families to travel. That’s because this attempt to micromanage the operation of a free-market entity will result in burdensome regulations that will threaten consumer choice, limit service and drive up airfares.
The truth is, U.S. domestic airfares are at historically low levels. In fact, the average cost of a plane ticket has dropped nearly $100 since 2000, adjusted for inflation. This runs contrary to claims by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, one of the sponsors of the FAIR Fees Act, that airline fees are “climbing as high as the planes passengers are traveling on.”
To keep ticket prices affordable, airlines offer unbundled fares and fees. Consumers can choose to buy tickets based on their needs — whether it’s added services or flexibility. Dictating fees will take the power of choice away from American consumers and give it to government bureaucrats to implement a one-size-fits-all approach to airline prices.
Without change fees, airlines wouldn’t be able to offer low, refundable fares for millions of consumers traveling on a budget. Low-cost carriers such as Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines are built on offering low, no-frills fares that give consumers the option to pay only for the services they actually need. The FAIR Fees Act would take away the power for travelers to tailor their trip based on their needs — chilling consumer choice.
Any prohibition or limit to airlines’ decision to charge change fees will ultimately drive up airfares for everyone. The FAIR Fees Act will result in increased ticket costs as airlines react to the policy by offering only more expensive nonrefundable fares that do not allow passengers to make any changes to their reservation — or the cost of changes will have to be added into the airfare. This would result in even the cheapest fares becoming more expensive for every single traveler. How is it “fair” for the federal government to force every single traveler to pay more for their airfare?
It’s certainly true that sometimes a last-minute travel change is unavoidable. But prohibiting change fees would lead to frequent last-minute changes, leaving seats on flights empty, which would force airlines to offer fewer flights and make it harder for them to guarantee service to small- and mid-size communities in every corner of the nation.
It is important to remember that this proposal goes against the Trump administration’s promise to shrink the influence of the federal government and decrease the tax burden on everyday Americans. Congress passed historic tax reforms last year, delivering on one of those promises and easing the burden on consumers.
With the FAIR Fees Act, Congress is threatening to roll back those benefits for anyone who travels. The federal government doesn’t dictate pricing models for any other industry and it shouldn’t start with the airline industry, which fuels our nation’s economy. Consumers don’t want the federal government to regulate what any private company or industry charges for their products or services. The FAIR Fees Act would do just that.
Sen. Markey and supporters of the FAIR Fees Act fail to understand that free market competition among dozens of carriers is good for consumers. Unbundling fares and fees has allowed for the emergence of ultra-low-cost airlines, which offer low fares that are then typically matched by other airlines. Traveling has never been more affordable, and we have the free market to thank for that.
Luckily, the FAIR Fees Act is not yet law. Markey would tell you this proposal is necessary to protect consumers and keep airline prices in check. But the airline industry has already proven that a free-market economy is the best approach to allow competition to keep prices in check for consumers. Flying is more affordable now for families than ever before. Don’t let Congress change that.