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Smoke and Mirrors: Democrat's Airline Bill Would Raise Costs for All

It's deja vu all over again. The regulation-happy Senate Democrats have struck again, and this time they have the airline industry in their crosshairs.


In legislation similar to the Durbin Amendment of Dodd-Frank, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has introduced a bill that would ban airline carriers from charging for carry-on bags. She claims it's intended to ease the financial burden of flying:

"Air travel can be a stressful experience for many reasons, but unfair fees for basic amenities should not be one of them," Landrieu said in a statement. "Passengers have been nickeled and dimed for far too long and something has to be done about it."

Ostensibly, the bill would make it cheaper to fly, but once again, it's not that simple. Banning these fees might make it easier to check a bag, but those costs exist for a reason:

Steve Lott, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, said banning baggage fees would actually be less fair to customers, as it could result in higher ticket costs that all passengers would bear as opposed to just those who are checking bags.

The industry started charging for checked bags to deal with rising jet fuel costs and a weak economy. According to industry estimates released this month, the average price of a gallon of jet fuel rose from just over $1 between 2001 and 2005 to more than $3 in late 2011. According to the Air Transport Association, airfare alone does not cover the operating costs of a flight.


Once again, the Democrats illustrate their minimal understanding of the economy. Landrieu's "quick fix" legislation is a superficial attempt to garner favor with voters and demonize an entire industry. Under the auspices of protecting consumers, she would harm, rather than help us by driving up ticket costs for everyone -- after all, airlines have to cover the increased cost of jet fuel somehow.

It's a reprise of the Durbin Amendment fallout, in which Sen. Dick Durbin, President Obama, and a host of others on the left villified banks -- notably Bank of America -- for issuing a monthly debit card fee. Of course, they failed to mention that the fee was a direct result of new government regulations that made debit transactions more expensive for banks -- in favor of the retail lobby.

Landrieu's bill is political pandering based in anti-business rhetoric, not fact. The Democrats cry "profiteering" over costs they deem "unfair," when in reality, they're frequently targeting reasonable businesses' cost-covering measures. Besides, how absurd that in the wake of the supercommittee's humiliating failure, the Democrats introduce more regulations designed to demonize business and ultimately inconvenience all consumers.


If they really wanted to lower the costs of air travel, why not ease the burden on domestic energy production? Allow for offshore drilling and other efforts that would bring down the cost of jet fuel? That, after all, is the source of the problem -- not price gouging by the airline industry.

But instead, the Democrats seem determined to step on productivity wherever they go.

Just call it the audacity of broke.

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