Airlines Urged to Lighten Up on Baggage Fees

January 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Who says there’s no good news in the papers anymore? In late November, the L.A. Times did a story on politicians goingto bat for passengers rights by tackling that hassle of the highest order: baggage fees.

Mary Landrieu, a Democratic senator from Louisiana, introduced proposed legislation just before Thanksgiving that would allow airline passengers — by law — to check one suitcase, gratis, per flight. That allowance is only one part of a larger proposal that would keep carry-on baggage free and guarantee travelers access to water and bathrooms throughout their flights.

If you do choose to check your bags, most airlines charge $25 (or more!) for your first bag and additional charges for second and third bags.

But what if you want to avoid those fees? Carrying bags on is a real source of stress for air travelers. Let’s start at the security line. Those used to checking bags — and therefore not accustomed to TSA restrictions on liquids and other items — can cause real hold-ups in line. (It’s stressful for everyone around, too.)

In the Times article, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said that carry-on bags increase screening costs nationwide by $260 million a year.

If you thought that TSA line was long and slow, wait until you actually start boarding. Passengers now have to be ready to fight tooth and nail for a coveted spot in an overhead bin for their Rollaboards or business briefcases. That jockeying for bin space — and the inevitable scramble to gate check a bag (for free, by the way) when the last passengers to board can’t find space — not only slows down the boarding and deplaning process, but it’s also fostering animosity among already-stressed travelers who have to share a very small space for the next few hours. This has also made flight attendants’ jobs understandably more challenging as they attempt to keep customer’s happy and ensure that the doors of the overflowing overhead bins are closed and secure.

Most airplanes are built with a huge area underneath for storing luggage and other items. As fewer people check bags to avoid checked-bag fees, that space is going largely unused. Meanwhile, people are fighting for on board bag space and hoping they’ll find a place for their feet afterward. The system as it stands now is counterproductive — and it should change.

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