Source: Times Union
By James M. Odato
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer persuaded two airlines not to join a trend toward charging extra for preferred seating on their airplanes — although several major carriers seem married to the fees.
Schumer announced on Sunday that the leaders of Virgin America Airlines and JetBlue agreed not to charge families extra to sit together on flights. The two airlines had not been tacking on extra costs for so-called “preferred” seats and had not planned to join a flock of other carriers boosting the cost of aisle or window assignments.
The agreement from the two companies follows concerns Schumer raised to an industry group and to the federal Department of Transportation about a move by airlines to get $25 or more extra for preferred seats. He said that could cause problems for traveling families, particularly parents with children.
Schumer also said he will request the DOT to require airlines that do charge premiums, and all ticket brokers, like Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity, to display potential seat fees along with the ticket prices on the first screen where a price is quoted. He said disclosing seat assignment fees up front and before the ticket is actually purchased will allow families to make more informed decisions about the cost of flying on a particular airline and will help ensure they aren’t forced to pay extra fees after already purchasing tickets.
Several airlines began adding fees for aisle or window seats, or both, and Schumer worried that some consumers would not realize that they had to pay extra to guarantee they could next to family members and would either have to pay handsomely or sit apart.
“Airlines have been trying to nickel-and-dime fliers for years, but their latest proposal that could separate families is the most outrageous yet,” said Schumer. “I want to commend JetBlue and Virgin America for stepping up to the plate, being leaders on this issue.”
He said American, Delta, and US Airways charge extra for preferred seats. American charges upwards of $25, Delta adds up to $59 and US Airways charges up to $30.
Two weeks ago, Schumer called on the carriers to voluntarily reconsider their pricing scheme, particularly for families traveling with children.
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