From the department of; If there was any doubt the airlines are giving you the shaft; a new report says passenger extra charges generated $27.1 billion in 2012, with airlines like Delta, United and American leading the revenue race.
The figure represents a 20 percent jump over 2011.
And just about none of it is taxed by Uncle Sam.
Taxpayers are paying the tab as airlines raise fees instead of airfares.
There's a 7.5 percent federal tax on every airline ticket. The money goes into a fund that pays for the air transportation system: airports, capital improvements and the operation of the Federal Aviation Administration.
But over the past decade, the amount of money flowing into that fund - mostly ticket-tax revenues - has fallen short of projections. When that happens, Congress can increase general fund contributions to cover the FAA's budget. In both fiscal 2009 and 2010, Congress appropriated an additional amount of almost $1 billion.
When the airlines keep ticket prices down by shifting billions of profit to baggage fees, they also save hundreds of millions in federal taxes they would have owed if they had hiked ticket prices by that amount.
The airlines are bypassing aviation-specific taxes that come out of ticket prices and the aviation system itself is ending up poorer.
Obviously this is a loophole that must be closed, which would probably make air fares rise but airlines would again be forced to offer decent service to be competitive.
The report says about half of these fees are things the customer will never see, or forced upon the customer. For United Airlines they include things like mileage payments from Chase, Economy Plus and first class buy-ups.
The breakout of Southwest's revenue is particularly interesting, since they have no bag fees.
"Every year, key numbers are getting larger. The most aggressive airlines easily generate more than 20 percent of their revenue from a la carte fees," according to the report by IdeaWorks.
All these extra charges add up to deceptive advertising, making it harder for passengers to know and compare the true cost of tickets at the time of booking.
United Airlines was tops among carriers in the total amount of non-fare revenue collected last year, followed by Delta, American and Southwest, the study found. Ultra-budget carrier Spirit Airlines collected the most as a percentage of its total income, with fees and other extras making up 38.5 percent of its revenue.
The whole system is insane and needs an overhaul, and that's what FlyersRights is hoping to do this week in Washington.
But we're up against airline lobbyists whose job is to ensure Congress do nothing to change the present structure.
Frontier Charges Delaware's Fliers Extra for Houston, After Route Canceled
A banner hangs at the New Castle County Airport advertising Frontier Airlines' destinations from Delaware. Among them is Houston, which Frontier canceled service to last week. / KYLE GRANTHAM/THE NEWS JOURNAL
It was, they believed, a stroke of incredible luck. In May, 14 members of a Wilmington-area family heading to Houston, Texas, for an Oct. 5 wedding were able to book tickets from New Castle Airport for a bargain price.
But Tuesday, with less than a month before the wedding, they received emails from Frontier telling them their flight had been canceled. The airline, which discontinued service from Delaware to Houston as of Oct. 2, still will offer connecting service through Denver, but customers holding direct-to-Houston tickets must pay the difference in price.
"It was so convenient. Now it's turned into, there's drama here," said Loria Bafundo, of Wilmington, whose boyfriend is the bride's uncle. They were told that paying for a connecting flight would cost an additional $376 per person, each way, Bafundo said. "Honestly, I don't think we're going to go at all."
Analysts said the inconvenience associated with an airline's decision to discontinue a route from a small airport like New Castle is a part of life, especially one at Frontier, a small airline that has struggled financially.
But even under those conditions, Frontier is sending unhealthy signals by bucking an industry standard, said Jay Sorensen, president of the IdeaWorks Company, an airline consulting firm based in Milwaukee. As long as there's a connecting flight, it's normal for the airline to absorb the added costs to get the passengers to their destination, he said.
Frontier started service at New Castle Airport in July, offering flights to Houston, as well as Chicago-Midway, Denver, Orlando and Tampa, Fla. Service to Fort Myers, Fla., begins Nov. 16. Airline officials say ridership has been strong out of New Castle Airport for every destination except Houston.
Maureen Cushing, the bride's aunt, said she was told that if she chose to take a connecting flight, she would need to leave the prior day and then spend 11 hours in transit.
Fliers making such a switch would have their change fee waived but would have to pay the difference in price, confirmed Kate O'Malley, Frontier spokeswoman.
The Screamliner Diaries
Norwegian Air Shuttle Grounds Its 787s
On Monday, Norwegian Air Shuttle suffered another "technical fault" with one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the latest in a series of glitches for the jet.
"We had a technical problem with a hydraulic pump, resulting in a weight limitation and unfortunately we had to leave 70 passengers behind in New York on Sunday," Norwegian spokesman Lasse Sander-Nilsen said yesterday.
"We have not done the math yet, but we expect that Boeing will take their share of responsibility," he added.
Norwegian had to briefly ground both of its Dreamliners earlier this month due to various technical faults, including brake and power issues.
Just last week Norwegian Air Shuttle briefly grounded both of its new Boeing 787 jets after the aircraft experienced technical problems.
Norwegian Air said it was forced to cancel a 787 flight from Oslo to Bangkok last Saturday after the ground crew tried for several hours to power up the plane while it was parked at Oslo Airport Gardermoen and connected to an external electrical supply unit.
Norwegian Air Shuttle had grounded its other 787 on Sept. 2 after a cockpit display indicated a problem with the plane's brakes.
Dangerous overheating of the lithium-ion batteries on two planes in January led to the grounding of all 787 jets worldwide. Investigators still have not determined the root cause of the two incidents, but Boeing has modified the battery system in an attempt to resolve the issue.
We are commited to solutions for promoting airline passenger policies that forward first and foremost the safety of all passengers while not imposing unrealistic economic burdens that adversely affect airline profitability or create exhorbitant ticket price increases.
All American air carriers shall abide by the following standards to ensure the safety, security and comfort of their passengers:
Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.
Notify passengers within ten minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.
Establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.
Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than 3 hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities, and access to medical attention.
Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.
Publish and update monthly on the company’s public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.
Compensate “bumped” passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price.
The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers – that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.
Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.
Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.
Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners.