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... Hidden charges

   We gave this guy some grief a few weeks ago, when we thought he deserved it. [His colleague, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, wrote to defend him.] Today, well, the man's got a point. But we think we can improve on it.

- Carrying baggage - Buffalo News Editorial
   Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn. [right], had it exactly right. If the airlines don’t get right with the public on the JamesOberstarextra costs of travel, the public will demand that Congress force the issue.
   The issue begins with the baggage charges that airlines implemented three years ago as costs rose and the economy weakened, but it doesn’t end there. Seat selection, early boarding, extra leg room, blankets, pillows, drinks and meals can all add significantly to the cost of air travel. The public should be able to evaluate those potential extra costs at the time of booking.
   That’s the primary issue, though Oberstar suggested that Congress might act to restrain what the airlines can charge. ...
   the nonpartisan Congressional Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that airlines, travel agents, online travel services and other outlets should be required to disclose all such fees in a clear and consistent manner. ...
   Airlines are under tremendous financial pressure from competition and a weak economy. It’s in the public’s interest to maintain healthy competition within the industry. Government should stay out of setting fees and simply require the industry to disclose them in a uniform, easily understandable way. That would do the trick.

   And, just by the way, it now looks like the hold-up we were bagging on Oberstar about before is about to be resolved. With his help:
- Air safety bill near passage - Jerry Zremski/The Buffalo News
   Key aviation safety improvements stemming from last year's crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence Center could win approval in Congress and be sent to President Obama within days, thanks to a legislative breakthrough Wednesday. ...
   Rep. Jerry F. Costello, D-Ill., chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee ... and Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, revealed their strategy shift in a meeting with about a dozen members of the Families of Continental Flight 3407.
   Upon hearing that their long legislative fight appeared on the verge of victory, many family members wept.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News


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