on airlines & baggage

As anyone who has ever flown in, once seen, or thought about an airplane, I feel as though it is my patriotic duty to add my inflation adjusted $0.02 into the mix.

In-case you have been hiding under a rock for the past week, Spirit Airlines announced that they will charge up to $45 for passengers bringing carry-on bags onto it’s jets this summer. The announcement has been met with much controversy and has even sparked a new Bill in congress entitled the BAG Act (whose cutesy title makes me gag a little so I won’t repeat it here.)

The great Senator from New York (no, the other one… yes, Schumer… near-sighted protector of consumers everywhere… ok, no? yeah, the CARD Act was short-sighted wasn’t it… ok, that’s a whole other debate, let’s move on…) has received commitment from five domestic airlines that they will not follow suit and also charge for carry-on bags. Unfortunately, the Senator may be on the wrong side of this issue. Closer inspection shows that the argument isn’t so simple.

This is a problem that airlines brought on themselves. Ever since they began charging for checked bags individual consumers decided to outsmart them and bring ever larger bags into the cabin itself. A cabin which was never designed to hold the quantity of cargo it now contains. This causes multiple headaches, it slows down the check-in process, slows down security, slows down boarding and slows down disembarkment. It now takes a solid half hour to board an A-390 as little old women struggle to lift 45-lb suitcases above their heads and into the over-head bins.

Spirit decided to apply a tried-and-true (and effective) economic principle using a (dis)incentive to force people to make a conscious choice about what they are doing. Do I REALLY need my bag with me in the cabin, slowing everyone down, or can it go below?

Of course no one wants to pay any added fees for anything, but perhaps we should all take a good look at what Spirit was trying to accomplish. Maybe folks bringing 40-lb bags into the cabin should pay the fee for the added convenience (for themselves) and inconvenience (for everyone else.)  Then we can all return to sanity and vacationers can check their over-sized and overstuffed bags. While we are at it, airlines should also enforce the rule that your first carry-on goes under your seat. No more putting your coat and purse in the overhead so that your little feets can stretch comfortably. (I’m looking at you.)

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