Airlines file lawsuit over Biden's 'hidden junk fees' crackdown

U.S. airlines are suing to block the Biden administration from requiring greater transparency over fees that the carriers charge their passengers, claiming the new rule would confuse consumers by providing too much information during the ticket-buying process. 

The U.S. transportation Department said Monday it will vigorously defend the rules against what it called "hidden junk fees." 

Airlines claim overreach by Transportation Department

American, Delta, United, and three other carriers, along with their industry trade group, Airlines for America, filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Transportation Department in a federal appeals court on Friday. 

The lawsuit asks the court to overturn the new transparency rule, claiming the department is overstepping its authority by attempting "to regulate private business operations in a thriving marketplace." 

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The airlines argue that the administration hasn’t shown that consumers lack access to fee information.

"Airlines go to great lengths to make their customers knowledgeable about these fees," Airlines for America said Monday. "The ancillary fee rule by the Department of Transportation will greatly confuse consumers who will be inundated with information that will only serve to complicate the buying process."

Among the nation's six biggest airlines, only Southwest did not join the legal challenge, which was filed in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.


Aerial view of United Airlines passenger planes docked in a terminal of Newark Airport in Newark, New Jersey, on May 11, 2024.

Southwest said the rule will have little to no effect on it because the Dallas-based carrier lets passengers check two bags for free and has never charged extra fees for changing or canceling reservations.

New rule to disclose airline fees upfront

The Transportation Department announced the new rule on April 24, requiring airlines and travel agents to disclose upfront any charges for baggage and canceling or changing a reservation. Airlines must show the fees on the first website page where they quote a price for a flight.

The agency estimated that the rule will save consumers more than $500 million a year.

"We will vigorously defend our rule protecting people from hidden junk fees and ensuring travelers can see the full price of a flight before they purchase a ticket. Many air travelers will be disappointed to learn that the airline lobby is suing to stop these common-sense protections," the department said Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.