Biden denounces airline and hotel fees in State of the Union speech

President Joe Biden gives his State of the Union address on Feb. 7. He is flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and House speaker Kevin McCarthy.
President Joe Biden gives his State of the Union address on Feb. 7. He is flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and House speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo Credit: The White House

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden said his administration was taking on "junk fees," and he specifically mentioned airline and resort fees.

"Americans are tired of being played for suckers," Biden said during the address to Congress.

Referring to a DOT rule proposed late last year, he said, "We're making airlines show you the full ticket price upfront." 

The DOT said it wants to require airlines and ticket agents to "clearly disclose passenger-specific or itinerary-specific baggage fees, change fees and cancellation fees to consumers whenever fare and schedule information is provided to consumers."

Airlines say they have transparent pricing 

Responding to Biden's comments, trade group Airlines for America said, "A4A member passenger airlines -- which are fierce competitors -- offer transparency to consumers from first search to touchdown. 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% of many domestic one-stop, roundtrip tickets." 

Biden also touched on another DOT proposed rule that would stipulate when flyers would be entitled to a refund if their flight was delayed. Last August, the DOT proposed to require airlines to offer refunds when they delay domestic flights for three hours or longer or delay international flights for six hours or longer. 

Biden takes aim at resort fees

Moving on to resort fees, Biden said, "We're going to ban surprise resort fees that hotels charge on your bill. Those fees can cost you up to $90 a night at hotels that aren't even resorts."

In response, the trade group American Hotel and Lodging Association said, "AHLA will continue to work with the Biden administration, the Federal Trade Commission and lawmakers on Capitol Hill to ensure a level playing field around transparency for mandatory fees, such as hotel resort fees. These fees provide guests with value and include various unique goods and services at each property that charges them. It is crucial that the same standards for fee display apply across the lodging booking ecosystem, including for hotels, as well as online travel agencies, metasearch sites and short-term rental platforms."

The Junk Fees Prevention Act

Last October, Biden urged federal agencies to take action against "junk fees" in a White House briefing, and he is also urging Congress to pass the Junk Fees Prevention Act, which would require upfront pricing for airlines and hotels. The measure is not a bill yet.

"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. They add up to hundreds of dollars a month," Biden said during the State of the Union address. "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."

Biden: No seat-selection fees for families 

The Biden administration also aims to prohibit airlines from charging seat-selection fees to families who want to sit together on the plane. Biden said it was "$50 roundtrip for a family just to be able to sit together. Baggage fees are bad enough. Airlines can't treat your child like a piece of baggage."

Airlines for America noted that its member airlines "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."

Airlines for America members are Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest and United. Nonmembers include Spirit and Frontier, budget airlines that charge passengers a fee to select any seat on the plane.

Christina Jelski contributed to this report.


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