Separate bag fee raises cost

GAO re­port says fliers paid less when the checked-bag price was in­cluded in the air­fare.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Hugo Martin hugo.martin@la­

Air trav­el­ers paid less when the cost of check­ing lug­gage was in­cluded in the price of an air­line ticket than they do now that air­lines charge sep­a­rately, ac­cord­ing to a gov­ern­ment re­port.

The re­port by the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice was re­quested by Se­na­tors Ed­ward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Richard Blu­men­thal (D-Conn.), who re­sponded to the find­ings with a call to crack down on air­line fees.

“This re­port con­firms what count­less pas­sen­gers across the coun­try al­ready know to be true — that air­lines are nickel and dim­ing cap­tive pas­sen­gers to line their pock­ets, not to cover the costs of the ser­vices,” Markey said in a state­ment.

Start­ing in 2008, the na­tion’s air­lines be­gan a pol­icy of “un­bundling” ser­vices, such as charg­ing ex­tra fees to check lug­gage, to buy food and drinks or con­nect to the in­ter­net.

Air­lines say this tac­tic gives pas­sen­gers the op­tion of save money by pay­ing only for those ser­vices they want.

Al­though do­mes­tic air­fares have dropped over the last three con­sec­u­tive years, the GAO re­port said the added fees make fly­ing more ex­pen­sive.

The GAO cited three peer-re­viewed stud­ies that con­cluded that trav­el­ers who now pay an ex­tra fee to check at least one bag pay more, on av­er­age, to travel than they did when the bag cost was in­cluded in the air­fare.

A 2015 study found that for ev­ery dol­lar pas­sen­gers spent on bag fees, the air­fare was re­duced by only 11 cents. Most ma­jor car­ri­ers — with the ex­cep­tion of South­west Air­lines — charge $25 to check the first bag.

Air­lines for Amer­ica, a trade group for the na­tion’s air­lines, re­sponded to the re­port, say­ing fliers now get more choices for on­board ser­vices and ameni­ties than ever be­fore.

“It’s quite clear our pas­sen­gers are more than able to nav­i­gate the wide menu of choices that air­lines of­fer with­out in­ter­fer­ence from Wash­ing­ton,” the group said in a state­ment. Mar­riott un­der f ire for con­fer­ence

Should a ho­tel chain make a judg­ment on the groups that hold con­fer­ences at one of its prop­er­ties?

That is the ques­tion that was raised this week af­ter the world’s largest ho­tel chain, Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional, an­nounced it won’t can­cel a con­fer­ence next month for what crit­ics say is an anti-Mus­lim hate group.

The Bethesda, Md., hos­pi­tal­ity com­pany said it will al­low a con­fer­ence next month at an Ar­ling­ton, Va., ho­tel for a self-de­scribed grass-roots se­cu­rity or­ga­ni­za­tion known as ACT for Amer­ica.

“We are a hos­pi­tal­ity com­pany that pro­vides pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions and func­tion space,” a Mar­riott spokesman said. “Ac­cep­tance of busi­ness does not in­di­cate sup­port or en­dorse­ment of any group or in­di­vid­ual.”

Mus­lim Ad­vo­cates, a le­gal ad­vo­cacy group, and the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter both de­scribe ACT as an ex­tremest anti-Mus­lim hate group. Mus­lim Ad­vo­cates wrote to Mar­riott’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Arne Soren­son, urg­ing the com­pany to can­cel the Oct. 2-3 gath­er­ing.

ACT de­nies be­ing a hate group and in­stead says it is ad­vo­cat­ing to pro­tect the U.S. from ter­ror­ists and their sup­port­ers. The Wash­ing­ton-based or­ga­ni­za­tion was founded in 2007 by Brigitte Gabriel, a Le­bane­se­born Chris­tian im­mi­grant who has ap­peared on Fox News as a com­men­ta­tor.

The group, which claims 750,000 mem­bers, has sup­ported Pres­i­dent Trump’s re­stric­tions on refugees and travel from Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries. It or­ga­nized protests through­out the coun­try this sum­mer against sharia law. In an on­line video pro­mot­ing the Oc­to­ber con­fer­ence, Gabriel warns “The left­ist Is­lamic coali­tion is rag­ing war against the rule of law and against you and me. That’s why I need you by my side as we de­scend on Wash­ing­ton, DC.”

Al­though Mar­riott said it does not make a judg­ment on groups who use Mar­riott ho­tels, the Wash­ing­ton Dulles Mar­riott ho­tel was one of three ho­tels that in 2010 can­celed a con­tract to host a con­fer­ence of a white na­tion­al­ist group, Amer­i­can Re­sis­tance.

A Mar­riott spokesman de­clined to com­ment on the 2010 can­cel­la­tion.

Jerome Adamstein Los An­ge­les Times

AL­THOUGH do­mes­tic air­fares have dropped over the last three con­sec­u­tive years, the GAO re­port said the added fees make f ly­ing more ex­pen­sive.

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