President Biden has given a speech today at the White House, sharing actions that are intended to help families with expenses amid inflation. Among these changes, Biden discussed hidden airline and hotel fees.
Biden’s bizarre comments on airline fees
“Some airlines, if you want six more inches between you and the seat in front, you pay more money, but you don’t know it until you purchase your ticket. Looks, folks, these are junk fees, they’re unfair, and they hit marginalized Americans the hardest, especially low income folks, people of color. They benefit for corporations, not consumers.”
I’m not really sure what he’s going for here?
- Are all airlines supposed to increase legroom by six inches for everyone?
- Isn’t it sufficient to know that there’s a cost for extra legroom seats at the time that you’re purchasing your ticket?
I suspect Biden was referring to an initiative announced in late September, where his administration intends to require airlines and online travel agencies to disclose fees for seat selection, checked baggage, and other add-ons, at the same time that fares are displayed.
That’s something I’m 100% in favor of, though the extra legroom example doesn’t really demonstrate that point well, and for that matter seems to miss the point. I’m guessing the legroom is pretty decent for everyone on Air Force One, so it’s probably not an issue Biden has dealt with in some time. 😉
Biden to tackle hotel & resort fees
During his speech, Biden also mentioned changes with hotel & resort fees, and talked about requiring hotels to be more transparent with these.
The concept of hotels charging resort fees or destination fees has become increasingly common in recent years, and this is frustrating for consumers:
- With this practice, hotels generally bundle some amenities for a fixed nightly fee, in order to generate more revenue
- One of the primary motivations for these fees is to initially make the rate seem lower than it actually is; some hotels have a bad habit of “drip pricing,” whereby the cost of a hotel stay increases as you go through the booking process
- There are some other motivations for these kinds of fees, including online travel agencies not getting commissions on that portion of the rate, and in some areas there are tax benefits to this as well
I’m not asking that hotels eliminate these, but rather it would be nice if hotels were at least required to disclose these upfront, during the booking process. This is something that Marriott agreed to do after settling with the Attorney General of Pennsylvania. However, it seems like this should simply be an industry practice across the board.
While we’ll see what comes of this, President Biden mentioned during a speech that he intends to require greater transparency from airlines and hotels when it comes to hidden fees.
While the government could potentially force more transparency, it’s unlikely to do much to lower the cost of flights or hotel stays. It would simply level the playing field of how different brands advertise their costs, and make the booking process easier for consumers.