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President Biden Calls Out Hotel, Airline Fees in State of the Union Address

The President vowed to tackle the practice of airlines and hotels charging so-called 'junk fees' and called on firms to be more transparent in their pricing

by Fergus Cole

February 9, 2023

Joe Biden, 46th President of the United States / Photo: lev radin/Shutterstock

President Joe Biden took aim at what he called “junk fees” in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, calling out resort and airline fees specifically.

The President criticized airline baggage fees and seat selection charges, the latter of which he said the White House plans to eradicate. He also referred to a Department of Transportation (DOT) rule proposed last year, requiring commercial airlines and ticket agents to disclose all fees and charges to customers at the point of sale.

“Americans are tired of being played for suckers,” said Biden in his address to Congress. “We’re making airlines show you the full ticket price upfront and refund your money if your flight is canceled or delayed. And we’ll prohibit airlines from charging up to $50 roundtrip for families just to sit together. Baggage fees are bad enough—they can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage.”

United Airlines cabin 777-300 / Photo: Courtesy of United Airlines

Airlines for America (A4A), the trade organization representing most major carriers in the U.S., responded to Biden’s speech, claiming its members were fully committed to full transparency with their customers.

“A4A member passenger airlines—which are fierce competitors—offer transparency to consumers from first search to touchdown,” said the organization. “U.S. airlines are committed to providing the highest quality of service, which includes clarity regarding prices, fees, and ticket terms.

“A4A passenger carriers provide details regarding the breakdown of airfares on their websites, providing consumers clarity regarding the total cost of a ticket. This includes transparency regarding taxes and government fees on airline tickets, which account for more than 20 percent of many domestic one-stop, roundtrip tickets.”

A4A also rejected Biden’s comments that airlines were charging families to sit together. It claimed its members “make every effort to accommodate customers traveling together—especially those traveling with children—without additional charges. A4A passenger carriers do not charge a family seating fee.”

Photo: Courtesy of Southwest Airlines / Stephen M. Keller

While A4A’s comments may be valid for its members—including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines—other carriers who aren’t members do charge such fees. These include low-cost carriers Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

Joe Biden also called out hidden charges at hotels and resorts during his State of the Union address. “We’re going to ban surprise resort fees that hotels charge on your bill,” he said. “Those fees can cost you up to $90 a night at hotels that aren’t even resorts.”

Biden also called on Congress to pass the Junk Fees Prevention Act during his speech, which would bring his proposed changes to pricing rules into law.

“Look, junk fees may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter to most other folks in homes like the one I grew up in, like many of you did,” said Biden. “They add up to hundreds of dollars a month. They make it harder for you to pay your bills or afford that family trip. I know how unfair it feels when a company overcharges you and gets away with it.”