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Biden administration sued by major US airlines, here’s what happened

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The latest clash between major US airlines and the Biden administration has resulted in the former suing the US Transportation Department over a new fee disclosure rule. On Monday, May 13, Reuters reported that Airlines for America and American Airlines filed a suit against the USDOT in the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.

US President Joe Biden exits the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, May 9, 2024. Climate activists who successfully pushed President Joe Biden to halt new US liquefied natural gas exports are setting their sights on proposed crude oil shipping facilities, after the administration approved a massive petroleum terminal last month. Photographer: Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)

Why are major US Airlines suing Biden Administration?

This raging development follows the Transportation Department’s announcement of rules last month, stating that airlines and agents must divulge all service fee charges with the airfare. USDOT pushed for the requirement so customers wouldn’t be startled by unexpected last-minute fees. Last month, the department also declared the new result would help customers pay less for air travel.

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Moreover, this rule targeted major airlines charging extra fees for checking customers’ bags if they don’t pay beforehand.

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Why are US Airlines charging extra for baggage checks?

In February 2024, CNBC reported that United Airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue Airways raised baggage check prices for passengers who didn’t pay to check a bag online in advance. Carriers reportedly put this in motion to free up employees at check-in areas, who would then be able to facilitate escorting travellers to the gates faster.

Answering why the airlines were encouraging travellers to pay in advance for baggage check, an American Airlines spokesperson told CNBC: “It allows our team members to spend more time with customers who require additional assistance with their travel journey.”

US Airlines’ suit – latest developments

The airline group released a statement on Monday, claiming that the USDOT’s rule attempts to regulate “private business operations in a thriving marketplace (are) beyond its authority.”

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As revealed by the media outlet, the suit’s copy slammed the department’s rule as “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise contrary to law.”

In response to the airlines’ earlier decision, USDOT said these baggage check charges “must be individually disclosed the first time that fare and schedule information is provided on the airline’s online platform, and cannot be displayed through a hyperlink.”

The Transportation Department also asserted that their new rule will curb, “bait-and-switch tactics some airlines use to disguise the true cost of discounted flights.”

Unlike the aforementioned groups, Southwest Airlines supported USDOT’s proposal and did not join the lawsuit.

In response to airlines’ “surprise fees,” President Joe Biden remarked last month, “Too often, airlines drag their feet on refunds or rip folks off with junk fees.”

Reuters also noted that US airlines secured a hefty bag of approximately $6.8 billion, guised as baggage fees in 2022. On the other hand, the mere first nine months of the following year brought them $5.5 billion.

 

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