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Sen. Franken Pushes Back against United Airlines’ New Plan to Charge Passengers for Overhead Baggage Space

Senator Says Minnesota Travelers and Families are Already Being Financially Squeezed by High Air Travel Costs

Friday, December 9, 2016

With travelers and families already stretched thin by excessive airfare costs and baggage fees, U.S. Sen. Al Franken said today that he has serious concerns with United Airlines' new plan to charge passengers for overhead baggage space.

Earlier this week, United announced that passengers who purchase seats in "Basic Economy"—a newly created seating section—won't be able to stow their carry-on bags in overhead compartments. This plan, aimed at raising profits at the expense of consumers, marks the first time that one of the Big Three domestic carriers will limit airline passengers to just one personal item.

In a letter to the Department of Transportation, Sen. Franken said that the agency should work with the airline industry to ensure that these kind of policies are reined in.

"This new approach, aimed at raising profits at the expense of travelers' comfort, is cause for concern, especially given that domestic carriers have enjoyed strong profits," wrote Sen. Franken. "In fact in 2015, the Big Three domestic carriers had a profit of nearly $20 billion. As many travelers are already feeling financially squeezed by the airline industry, it is troublesome to see one of the Big Three major domestic carriers denying some of its travelers the ability to store luggage in an overhead compartment."

You can read a copy of the letter by clicking here or reading below. 

December 9, 2016

 

Blane A. Workie, Assistant General Counsel

Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings

United States Department of Transportation

 

Dear Assistant General Counsel Workie:

 

I am writing to express serious concerns regarding United Airlines' plans to implement a new pricing tier that could have adverse impacts on travelers. Under the newly proposed pricing tier, called Basic Economy, passengers will no longer have the option of storing carry-on items in overhead compartments. In fact, they will only be allowed one personal item that must fit under the seat in front of them.

 

The Basic Economy tier will mark the first time one of the Big Three major domestic carriers will limit fliers to just one personal item that has to be small enough to fit under a seat. This new approach, aimed at raising profits at the expense of travelers' comfort, is cause for concern, especially given that domestic carriers have enjoyed strong profits. In fact in 2015, the Big Three domestic carriers had a profit of nearly $20 billion. 

 

As many travelers are already feeling financially squeezed by the airline industry, it is troublesome to see one of the Big Three major domestic carriers denying some of its travelers the ability to store luggage in an overhead compartment. Furthermore, this action could set a negative precedent for other airlines to follow. I therefore request that you work with the airline industry using all of your tools available as Director of the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, to ensure that restrictive policies on airline travelers are reined in. 

 

     Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Al Franken

United States Senator

 

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