Senators push to make carry-on fees taxable

By Michael Fabey

Six Democratic senators say they will push for a law to designate carry-on bags as essential air travel items, making it possible for the federal government to tax any revenue carriers collect from fees charged to bring bags aboard.

Such a new tax, say the senators, would dissuade other airlines from following Spirit’s lead in charging fees for the carry-ons. Starting Aug. 1, Spirit plans to charge $30 for carry-ons if paid in advance or at airport check-in, and $45 at the gate.

The senators pushing for the law are Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Charles Schumer of New York, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.

The federal government now collects 7.5 cents in taxes for every dollar airlines collect in fares. But the carriers pay no taxes for what the Treasury Department deems to be nonessential services.

The department recently ruled carry-on bags are not essential for travel. This makes the carry-on fee revenue very attractive to Spirit and other airlines, the senators say.

The federal government is now studying ways to tax the extra fees airlines have been charging for checked bags and other services.

Legislation was recently introduced in the Senate to ban all airlines from charging overhead bin fees.

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