Bid to banish baggage fee may be grounded

An alderman is attempting to stop airlines flying out of Chicago from charging for checked baggage.

But according to the airlines, her proposal won't fly in court.

In a bid to defray skyrocketing fuel costs, American Airlines, United Airlines and U.S. Airways recently began charging passengers $15 each way for the first piece of checked baggage.

However, first-class, business-class and frequent fliers are exempt from the fee.

That's enough to violate the city's airport use agreement, which prohibits airlines from operating in an "unjustly discriminatory basis," says Ald. Sandi Jackson (D-7).

"To ask the traveler who is least able to afford this fee to shoulder the burden is discriminatory on its very face," says Jackson.

At today's joint meeting of the City Council's aviation and finance committees, a lawyer representing the airlines argued that federal legislation and recent court decisions prohibit local governments from regulating airlines.

The lawyer also argued that the discrimination clause in the city contract is aimed at distinctions based on race, color, creed and sex.

The committees deferred a vote on legislation until an unspecified date.