Suppose you were going to take a bus trip somewhere. You go to the terminal knowing the fares have always been $50. You find out today they are $75, so you wait an extra day to travel and discover they are now only $60. Then you learn that the guy in the seat next to you paid only $38 for his ticket, but the person one seat in front of you paid $128.

It wouldn't sound like the bus company is acting very responsibly.

Yet, this is what you encounter when you fly. Fares change day-to-day and seat-to-seat.

The general public has no way of knowing how the airlines determine their fares, but a ticket that's $500 today might cost you $700 or maybe $400 tomorrow.

Fares aren't the only thing frustrating with airlines.

Most airlines have begun charging for luggage. Initially there was a limit to two pieces free with a charge for the third bag. Now on may airlines there is a separate fee per bag.

As if that isn't enough, some airlines are considering charging for carry-on bags. Right now there's a limit regarding the amount of carry on luggage, and that's understandable. But an extra fee for just one bag is nothing short of robbery.

Going back to the fares, when you see a rate of, say $300, for a flight, prepare to pay over $100 more for airport taxes.

It's time the federal government becomes more involved in the airline industry. Airlines are vital to the economic well-being of our country. They've become necessities for our travel.

It's true there are plenty of safety regs imposed by the federal government, but who's looking out for John Q. Public when it comes to fares, hidden costs, extra costs, and possibly even price gouging?

If someone wants to fly from, say Allentown to Chicago, the flight should be the same whether it is booked today, tomorrow, or next month unless rate increases are publicly announced.

While baggage limits are understandable, charging in general for one or two pieces of luggage is wrong especially for carry-on bags. With carry-ons, you don't have baggage handlers.

What's next, charging more if you wear a coat? Adding a fee to bring a purse or wallet with you? An extra charge for wearing shoes?

Americans have become dependent on air travel. There is no protection as far as costs, and there needs to be.

Federal lawmakers have to get involved in airline fee practices. While over-regulation is always a major concern of democracy, failure to regulate puts the masses at great risk.

Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com