U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has picked a mile-high fight with airlines over extra fees for "preferred seating."
Schumer is calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to restrict major companies like American, Delta and US Airways from charging up to $59 for certain seats in coach that airlines claim can offer more leg room, or an aisle or window location. Sometimes the majority of available seats on a flight are preferred seats that come with a tacked-on charge.
This growing practice by airlines can prevent family members from sitting with each other during a flight — unless they cough up the extra fees, Schumer said. He pointed to an example of a family of four being forced to pay up to an extra $200 to reserve a row of seats for a round-trip flight with one layover in each direction.
"Requiring parents to pay an additional fee to make sure their kids are sitting next to them and in sight is ridiculous and simply over the top," Schumer said. "This ill-conceived ploy to foist more fees on travelers could have profound implications for the safety of children on airlines and it needs to be revisited."
The practice of charging for aisle or window seats is only airlines' latest surcharge. Passengers are already charged for snacks on planes, and for in-flight entertainment. Jet Blue lets you watch Direct TV for free, but charges $5.99 for a movie on domestic flights. Don’t forget your own headphones, or you’ll be paying $2 for a pair.
Charges are also slapped on for those who prefer to make flight reservations by phone instead of online. US Airways and United both charge $25 to book a domestic flight over the phone.
Schumer is urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to adopt rules that force airlines to refrain from charging extra fees to families who want to sit together in preferred seating.
Nickle-and-dimed for sky-high fees
While "preferred seating" is the most recent attempt by airlines to up-charge customers, other nickel-and-dime practices have been going on for years.
Checked baggage: Continental will charge you $25 to check a bag at the airport for domestic flights and $35 for a second bag.
Carry-on luggage: You’d have to travel extremely light to avoid extra charges with Spirit Airlines. You’ll be charged $30 for a carry-on bag, which is two dollars more than the price of your first checked bag on a domestic flight.
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Snacks: The days of free peanuts are long-gone for American Airlines. Be prepared to shell out as much as $5.29 if you want a light snack and $10 for a sandwich or salad.
Changing flights: If something comes up and you need to change your flight time, be prepared to pay: AirTran charges $75 for same-day changes and American Airlines charges between $150-$300.
Flying a pet: Traveling with your furry friend? Delta charges up to $250 to bring a pet on a domestic flight.