State of the Union: Biden vows to outlaw ‘resort fees’ and airline family seating charges
Joe Biden has used part of his State of the Union address to vow to outlaw “resort fees” charged by hotels and to ban airlines from charging for families to sit together. He plans a “Junk Fee Prevention Act”.
The president said: “We’ll ban surprise ‘resort fees’ that hotels tack on to your bill. These fees can cost you up to $90 (£75) a night at hotels that aren’t even resorts.”
Such charges are very common in Las Vegas, and also apply in Florida and New York City. They are justified on the grounds of covering services such as WiFi and access to the gym, even though other hotels routinely include them. They are not optional.
Research by The Independent shows that resort fees as well as taxes can almost double the cost of a stay.
On Valentine’s night, 14 February, Ceasars Palace in Las Vegas has a headline rate of $89 (£74). But as well as taxes of $18 (£15), a resort fee of $46 (£38) is mandatory. The total rises to $153 (£127) – an increase of 72 per cent on the initial quote.
Some British holidaymakers have complained that resort fees, payable locally, are tacked on to the cost of pre-paid package holidays in the US
The Federal Trade Commission has published “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” to outlaw “deceptive or unfair acts or practices relating to fees”.
The chair, Lina Khan, said: “Resort fees at hotels first emerged in the late 1990s. By 2015, they accounted for one-sixth of total hotel revenue. That’s $2bn [£1.66bn] per year.
“With rising prices, fees are becoming more prevalent, allowing some businesses to raise effective prices without appearing to do so.”
The commission found resort fees ‘‘artificially increase the search costs and the cognitive costs’’ for consumers.
The president’s Junk Fee Prevention Act will also ban airlines from adding fees for families to sit with young children, he promised.
Mr Biden said: “We’ll prohibit airlines from charging up to $50 [£42] roundtrip for families just to sit together.
“Baggage fees are bad enough – they can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage.
“Americans are tired of being played for suckers.”
While most airlines seat families together free of charge, some ultra-low-cost carriers do not guarantee this.
For example, Spirit Airlines says: “Spirit will randomly assign you a seat at check-in for free, but we can’t guarantee that you’ll get to sit with your friends or family.
“If guests with children aged 13 and under do not opt to pre-select seats at the time of booking, our gate agents and flight attendants will work to provide adjacent seats when possible.”
In the UK, airlines are legally required to sit families with young children in close proximity.