Washington - New numbers from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show that airlines took in at least $4.3 billion from additional fees in 2010 - and the actual figure is likely much higher, since certain additional fees are not counted (http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/post/2010/12/airline-fees/134773/1).

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is the author of the Clear Airfares Act, which would guarantee consumers a breakdown of all airline fees before they purchase a ticket. He said today that hidden fees likely account for a large portion of the $4.3 billion, which is another reason to pass his legislation.

"The airline consumer was hit with a fee of more than $4.3 billion this year, and much of it came by surprise," said Menendez. "Hidden airline fees are impacting family budgets, which is why we need to finally provide travelers with an upfront breakdown of airline fees by passing my Clear Airfares Act. At a time when families are watching every last penny, they deserve to be given a full understanding not just of how much it will cost them to get to the airport, but how much it will cost to actually get to their destination."

Menendez's Clear Airfares provision aims to bring transparency to the price of flying through a full, clear and upfront breakdown of airfares and fees. Before a consumer purchases a ticket on the Internet, the legislation would require airlines and third-party websites to give consumers a complete and understandable listing of his or her particular airfare, as well as any other possible fees that might be incurred on the flight (such as baggage, seat assignments, etc.).

Currently, consumers must click to peripheral web pages and wade through often confusing text to understand whether or not their airfare includes surcharges and what other taxes and fees may have been added.

The Senate-passed version of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill includes a slightly-modified version of Clear Airfares, which would provide consumers searching for airline tickets with a full list of airfares and potential additional fees before they pay. The conference committee negotiating the final version of the FAA bill has yet to complete its work, and if it doesn't gain final passage before the end of the Congressional session, work on the legislation will start from scratch next year.