Travel presents intractable hardships we accept: toilet seat piss, other people, $15 snacks, nicotine withdrawal, simmering class resentment, a TSA officer’s palms probing inner thighs, constantly feeling like a criminal for some reason, and so on. But one indignity may come to an end: the Associated Press reports that the Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering forcing airlines to refund customers for checked baggage fees if their luggage doesn’t show up within a reasonable time window.
This could mean previously unthinkable restitution from behemoths accustomed to holding our clothing hostage until we surrender to our desire to gtfo of the airport or hang up on the hold music.
News of the DOT’s plan was confirmed by EuroJournal, which quoted White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese as saying it was part of President Joe Biden’s plan “around driving greater competition in the economy in service of lower prices.” Biden, Deese said, would release his plan “shortly.”
The refunds from airlines would reportedly come if passengers don’t receive their baggage within 12 hours of arrival on a domestic flight and 25 hours on an international flight.
Exorbitant baggage fees represent a huge chunk of airlines’ profits. In 2019, before the pandemic, all U.S. airlines combined made $5.7 billion in checked baggage fees, according to the Department of Transportation, while overall net income was $14.7 billion that year. In 2020, they made $2.8 billion in baggage fees but took a net loss of $35 billion. The biggest winners have been American Airlines ($274 million last year), and United and Delta Airlines (both roughly $200 million last year).
Another glorious potential proposal, the AP reports, is to force airlines to refund passengers if they paid for dysfunctional wifi service.
The Department of Transportation has not responded to EuroJournal’s request to confirm the potential baggage and wifi proposal, or whether it has plans in store for Amtrak, relatedly.