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Baggage Fees Could Be Erased in Europe—Will the U.S. Follow Suit?

Lawmakers want to nix extra charges for carry-on baggage.

When it comes to air travel, there are always those extra fees on top of the base fare—and if you don't pay attention, they can add up pretty quickly. Whether you travel light with a carry-on or prefer to check a bag, you're often on the hook for some sort of charge for luggage. But now, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are pushing for fees for carry-on baggage specifically to be nixed altogether. Read on to find out what lawmakers proposed, and whether the U.S. might follow suit.

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Lawmakers want to axe fees and standardize carry-on sizes.

packing a carry-on bag
BublikHaus / Shutterstock

On Oct. 3, lawmakers in Europe voted in support of a resolution that would have airlines get rid of fees for "reasonable" carry-on baggage, Politico reported. Per the resolution, it would also standardize the rules for the size of these bags.

According to Politico, the current resolution follows a 2014 ruling that determined cabin bags are a "necessary aspect" of air travel. Because of this, passengers shouldn't have to pay for carry-ons that are of the "reasonable" size and weight, the Court of Justice of the European Union (EU) ruled.

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Airlines have different requirements for carry-ons, which makes the process complicated.

walking with carry-on bag
Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock

As Steven Berger, senior legal officer at consumer organization Beuc, told Politico, EU airlines—much like those in the U.S.—have different size and weight requirements for carry-on bags. That makes it extra complicated for travelers who may have flights with different airlines on a multi-leg trip. He also noted that even if passengers do fly with the same carrier, sometimes they're given baggage for free on an outbound flight, but charged on the return.

"If you look at certain practices from certain airlines, they just don't care," he said. "So we need to codify it."

Airlines object to the proposed changes, noting that personal items, which are typically smaller than a standard carry-on and fit under the seat in front of you, are already free.

"A one-size-fits-all policy is likely to reduce the flexibility that passengers currently enjoy and impact the cost and convenience of air travel. It is also impractical, as the size and number of bags that fit securely onboard depends on the aircraft model and how it is configured," industry group Airlines for Europe said in a statement to Politico.

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The resolution needs a few more approvals.

A young woman putting her carry-on luggage into an overhead bin
iStock / SDI Productions

Before it's approved, the resolution needs support from the European Commission and EU countries, per Politico.

"A number of measures are being assessed in order to address the increasing complexity of airlines' offers as regards luggage, whilst at the same time respecting the airlines' commercial freedom," a Commission spokesperson said in a statement to Politico, also warning of "unintended consequences" of standardizing carry-on sizes and weight, which could lead to customers paying more.

While the Commission spokesperson didn't specify why that would be, some airlines currently tout low fares, but then have passengers paying more when adding services—like seat selection, bags, and WiFi—piece by piece.

Will the U.S. follow in the EU's footsteps?

Spirit Airplane on Runway
CarterAerial / Shutterstock

While paying for a checked bag is pretty standard, many U.S. airlines will give you a free carry-on at certain fare levels. Still, there are others that charge extra for cabin baggage—with prices varying by airline.

Spirit Airlines, for example, charges different fees depending on where and when you're flying, but according to data from NetVoucherCodes, a carry-on for a one-way flight is around $57. JetBlue Airways' website isn't entirely clear on the pricing structure for carry-ons, stating that you get a free personal item, while additional carry-ons "incur a fee." According to NetVoucherCodes, you can expect to pay around $30. And travelers on Frontier Airlines will pay around $29 for a carry-on, NetVoucherCodes says.

While it isn't yet understood whether baggage fees will continue to impact travelers in the U.S., President Joe Biden has been vocal about plans to eliminate airlines' "junk fees." In fact, a new rule being finalized this year will force U.S. carriers to show you the full ticket price before your purchase, including any hidden fees.

That's not the only legislation designed to address these issues for travelers. In New Jersey, the state Senate approved a bill that prohibits airlines from charging fees for carry-on bags that go into overhead storage.

"It's one thing for airlines to charge travelers for checked luggage, but tacking on fees for carry-on baggage is quite simply a back-door way of inflating the fare," Senator Jeff Van Drew said in a press release outlining the bill, which was prompted by Spirit Airlines' extra charges. "This measure asks Congress to prohibit this practice, and it sends a message to airlines that we are closely following their actions and are committed to exposing these deceptive policies to consumers when we discover them."

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Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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