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Senator joins battle over Allegiant carry-on bag fee

Allegiant Travel Co., which is already battling the U.S. Department of Transportation in court over how airfares are displayed, may face a new front.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has asked the agency to force airlines to include any carry-on bag fees in the first screen of a their reservation websites.

“Because bringing a carry-on bag is effectively a compulsory part of flying,” Schumer wrote in a Thursday letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the fees need prominent display to give passengers an “apples-to-apples” comparison with airlines that allow free carry-ons.

On Tuesday, Allegiant Travel’s Las Vegas-based airline, Allegiant Air, became the second carrier after discount rival Spirit two years ago to charge people for storing anything in the overhead bins on its planes. The bags add $10 to $35 to the price of a trip, depending on the route and when payment is made although any luggage that fits under the seat in front of the passenger remains free.

Allegiant could not be reached for comment on Schumer’s request.

Last year, Allegiant and rival discounter Spirit filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia Circuit Court to block agency fare rules that require government taxes and some airline fees to be included in the up-front price. The rules, which took effect on Jan. 24, also forced airlines to give more prominent display to ancillary charges such as those on checked luggage.

A three-judge appellate panel turned down the initial request to stop the new rule in September, but the case remains active .

Allegiant’s carry-on charges are shown in the fine print and a link to baggage fees. A passenger does not have to make a choice until several screens into the booking process.

Allegiant fought the rule not only as an infringement on free enterprise, but because it created an apparent price increase. A major part of Allegiant’s appeal has been to promote low base fares, then add separate charges for everything from online booking to onboard drinking water.

While passengers may groan at yet another airline fee, Wall Street analysts praised Allegiant for taking a step to boost profits and offset rising fuel costs.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at
toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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