Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Anyone who has traveled by air lately is well aware of the ever-proliferating inventory of nuisance fees the airlines are levying in an attempt to bolster their sickly bottom lines.

You want to sit in the front end of the coach cabin? Unlimber that wallet. Want a snack? Or a (gasp!) meal? Get out your ATM card. Want to speak to a real live person when booking your tickets? It’s gonna cost you.

Years ago, on a Peoples Express flight, I had to pay for my cup of morning joe. I not-so-jokingly asked the flight attendant whether I would need a quarter to use the toilet. And she didn’t laugh.

But now, the big revenue enhancer for the airlines is the fee they collect for checking your luggage. Not only will you shell out for each bag you check (excluding any massive overweight charges for which you may be liable), you’ll pay even more if you do it at the airport when you check in. (Paying when you check in online in advance of your flight will save you about a five-spot per bag.)

When people are discouraged from checking bags, of course, it means they have extra incentive to schlep as much as possible on board. Which means that the statutory “one carry-on bag plus a personal item” gets stretched as much as possible. It’s mind-boggling, the sheer amount of crap people attempt to haul onto an airplane these days.

Can you blame ’em? Checking bags exposes you to additional delays and the possible loss (temporary or permanent) of your luggage. People don’t need more reasons to carry their bags on board.

Imposition of a checked baggage fee simply exacerbates an already bad situation... but I have a solution. (Of course I do.)

Simply change the rules. Charge for carry-on bags and allow people to check their luggage for free.

Imagine it: Fewer roll-aboards crammed into those overhead bins. No more delays as people frantically search for a place for their valise, only to end up having to gate-check it when all the overheads are packed solid. Less risk of getting brained when that little old lady in 16E yanks her wheeled satchel full of lead bricks out of the bin.

The business travelers who have to hurry off to a meeting as soon as they land? Carry-on baggage fees are no problem for them. Can anyone say “expense account”?

Whaddaya think? Good idea? Bad idea? I think it’s a great idea, and I will be pleased to accept a suitable honorarium from the airlines when they realize just how great an idea it is and how much revenue they’ll generate.

As if.

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