WASHINGTON Senator Charles Schumer said on Sunday that he has commitments from five airlines to not follow the lead of Spirit Airlines by charging passengers a fee for carry-on baggage.
Schumer said that in personal calls to airline top executives he received promises from American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp; Delta Air Lines Inc; JetBlue Airways; United Airlines, a unit of UAL Corp; and US Air Airways not to charge fees for carry-on bags.
"We have begun to put the brakes on runaway and out-of-control airline fees," the New York Democrat said in a press release. "I am pleased some of the major carriers have responded to our efforts and have agreed not to charge for something that has always been free."
Schumer said he plans to continue reaching out to U.S. airlines to urge them to make similar commitments and is encouraging privately held Spirit to reverse its decisions to charge up to $45 for carry-on bags that do not fit under seats and which are stowed in overhead bins.
Schumer and other lawmakers have proposed legislation that would block the fees by declaring carry-on bags as essential for air travel.
Apparently a Treasury Department ruling last year opened a loophole that encouraged airlines to charge more fees rather than raise air fares.
Airlines pay a 7.5-cent tax to the federal government for every dollar they collect in fares. But no tax is imposed on fees collected for non-essential services.
Schumer said last January the Treasury Department issued a rule calling carry-on bags non-essential for air travel, creating an incentive to charge a fee.
Spirit's announcement to charge for carry-on bags created an outcry against mounting airline fees, which have been added for checked luggage, seat assignments and snacks. One airline is reportedly considering charges to use the lavatory.
United Airlines spokeswoman Robin Urbanski confirmed the airline would not be charging fees for carry-ons, although it does charge as much as $35 for checked luggage.
"We have no plans to do it," Urbanski said of adding carry-on fees.
JetBlue Airways spokesman Morgan Johnston said not only would that airline continue to allow a free carry-on bag and a personal item, but would also continue to carry the first checked bag free.
(Reporting by Donna Smith and Carey Gillam; Editing by Eric Walsh)