President Biden targeting fees in big consumer push on travel and credit cards

Following Southwest Airlines’ quiet expansion of family boarding on some flights to allow families to board together with children up to 13 years old, the Biden administration is looking to expedite banning fees altogether for family members to sit together with young children on plans.” Parents can find themselves unexpectedly not seated with their young child on a flight or paying large fees to sit next to their children,” the White House said in a statement Feb.1. “The President believes no parent should have to pay extra to sit next to their child.” Related: Just let families sit together already Most airlines charge travelers to select seats in advance when flying with certain fare types, which is the only way to guarantee seats together in these cases. Even if your fare type includes complementary seat selection, whether a couple could find two seats together, let alone three or more for a family, depends on the number of seats available at the time of booking. If you don’ t prepay for a seat assignment, all airlines will automatically assign you one for free during check-in. Unlike most other major airlines, Southwest is known (and often criticized) for its unconventional boarding process, requiring passengers to select seats based on the order in which they board, often creating an anxiety-inducing competitive process. Because Southwest does not allow travelers to select seats in advance, the only way to increase your chances of sitting together i s to purchase the airline’s EarlyBird Check-In, which automatically checks you in 24 hours ahead of your flight, guaranteeing an earlier boarding position and the opportunity to select your preferred seat, if available.Though having EarlyBird attached to your reservation used to guarantee an A boarding pass, those days are over. To truly secure an A boarding pass, you’ll need to pay an extra $30 to $60 each way to receive an A1-A15 boarding position. Sign up for our daily newsletter Traditional airline seat fees, including those charged by American, Delta and United, Travelers can end up costing anywhere between $20 and $100 each way, depending on the airline, fare type and route. An airline’s most restrictive fare type, usually known as basic economy, is typically not eligible for assigned seats without paying a fee. Read more: Southwest Airlines offers expanded family boarding ages on some flights”There is often a fee for normal economy seats together because so many rows are reserved as extra legroom [or] premium (no extra legroom but closer to the front of the plane),” said TPG executive editor Scott Mayerowitz. “If you aren’t one of the first 20 non-elite folks to book, you won’t find three or four seats together without paying.”Biden’s most recent push to Congress follows a public reminder to airlines of an existing Department of Transportation policy prohibiting charging travelers age 13 or younger for selecting a seat next to an accompanying adult. Based on that, it would appear that every airline is in violation of this policy, raising the question of why the DOT has refrained from taking harsher action. Per the White House, the agency will “publish a family seating fee dashboard and launch a rulemaking to ban the practice” as Biden calls upon Congress to “fast-track the ban on family seating fees so that the DOT can crack down on these practices more quickly than through a rulemaking.” A spokesperson for the president declined to comment beyond published remarks. In addition to airli ne seat fees, the White House targeted two other types of fees, including credit card late fees, to reduce the legal limit credit cards can charge users to a maximum of $8 or 25% of the required payment. This follows congressional efforts to lower merchant credit card fees in the name of market competition. Additionally, Biden called out “surprise resort and destination fees,” which hotels typically refrain from disclosing until checkout. Related reading:

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