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Schumer fights hike in air fares

Sen. Charles E. Schumer says airline tickets are among the few items dropping in price in recent years, and he wants to keep it that way.

The senator convened a news conference Monday in Buffalo Niagara International Airport to head off a possible Bush administration proposal allowing a slew of "surcharges" to be included in future airline prices.

Schumer suggested that should the U.S. Department of Transportation grant airline requests, carriers could advertise a $100 round trip from Buffalo to New York, only to add surcharges for fuel, labor, landing fees and other items.

The result could be a $300 ticket that consumers won't fully comprehend until just before they hit the "purchase" icon on their computers.

"It's just outrageous to allow airlines to hide their costs and not let you know about the fine print until just before you press the button," Schumer said.

Schumer, an outspoken advocate of airline competition since his election to the Senate in 1998, said such deregulated practices have resulted in new low-cost airlines that have driven down the cost of air travel. But he said the airlines are hoping to gain government approval for new ways to boost their revenues.

"It's the wrong way to go," he said, adding that he has written to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to encourage him to reject the proposal.

"If DOT does go along, I will introduce legislation to block it," Schumer said.

Under existing rules, the DOT considers such additional fees to advertised prices as deceptive except for certain taxes and fees.

But Schumer said the department is now re-examining the rules and enforcement policies.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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