Monday Insight – July 17, 2023

Buttigieg & Biden Tell Airlines:
Eliminate Those Nasty Junk Fees.
(Unless They’re Our Junk Fees)

A few weeks ago, we were entertained by a great stand-up Washington stage performance.

The opening act was the charming and talented Pete “Mr. Mayor” Buttigieg, who delivered great comedy routine, recounting how his FAA’s incompetence was really the fault of the airlines. He was going to “allow” airlines to reduce flying in the Northeast to accommodate the fact his ATC couldn’t handle it, anyway. Hilarious.

Then the show’s headiner, Joe “The Big Guy” Biden, stumbled to the stage, belting out his latest hit tunes regarding how he was the Doctor of Love, saving the public from the tragedy of having to deal with airlines and their nasty junk fees.

‘Course, the delivery had all the credibility of an instant bargain sale at Fast Freddy’s used car emporium. Lots of half-facts, dishonest hype, stuttering, stammering and half-finished sentences indicating he forgot his morning dose of Prevagen.

Applause. Not Questions. Needless to say, the Big Guy was totally confident that the media groupies in attendance – from network correspondents to aviation web geeks – wouldn’t bother to fact-check any of his nonsense lyrics, and would bound out after the show to file adoring stories, truth notwithstanding.

When he completed his performance, he did a lovely if doddering pirouette to stage left, with his adoring media yelling questions, which – as usual – were ignored. The Big Guy doesn’t do curtain calls.

One of the key themes in this performance was the “junk fees” that airlines charge. They must be fully disclosed in the future, and airlines must stop hiding them. The full cost of the trip must be front and center before the consumer hits the website “enter” button.

Of course, that is already the case. And, it actually misleads consumers by implying that the federal junk fees (taxes) that are imposed by the government are part of what the airline charges.

It’s Not Disclosure When Mandatory Fees Are Buried With Optional Ones. Now, think about it. No other industry is required to do this.

An auto dealer or furniture store or plumbing supplier sets the price, including whatever add-ons they concoct. The sales taxes are separate from the product itself and are between the buyer and the celestial powers of government. In the case of airline websites, the enormous taxes are outlined and included, but are essentially buried in the total. They should be clearly identified as costs not related to the vendor – in this case, airlines. That would be full consumer disclosure.

These federal junk fees must be illuminated more prominently, as they  are the only ones where consumers have no option, and no avenue to actually be informed as to exactly what they are paying for.

Point: the consumer needs to be informed that one big chunk of air travel “junk fees” are imposed by an unquestioned government. The consumer at least technically has the option of declining most of the baggage and seat-selection and early boarding fees that the Big Guy calls “junk.” But his junk fees are pay it or stay home.

Consumers don’t have any such option. The Big Guy and his Mr. Mayor opening act didn’t mention this. And the swooning media in attendance was either too ignorant to figure it out or didn’t want to.

Clarity On The Way? Now, one of the FAA Re-Authorization bills actually includes the requirement that federal fees and taxes NOT be included and buried in the final web quote.

Identified, yes, but when the consumer specifically sees what the airline is charging, and then is informed of the double-digit additional federal fees, that’s what is called full disclosure.

So, yes, let’s make sure the consumer sees all the various voluntary “junk fees” as well as the involuntary junk charges coming from Washington.

Consumer Jihadists! To Arms! Needless to point out, the politicians have activated their consumer gadflies and media clowns to decry this as anti-consumer. One network story assured us that it was proposed only to allow airlines to gouge more profits from the hapless flying public.

They just don’t want the public to be made fully aware and ask questions about the fed’s junk fees.

The FAA Re-Auth bills are still churning, so no telling if this will go anywhere.

In any case, standby. More entertainment to come.