Baggage Claims

When the airlines started aggressively charging for checked bags, I, like many travelers, did two things: packed more lightly and traveled with only a carry-on whenever possible. Turns out, the airlines are still making money even if I don’t check bags, since my luggage is now lighter, and they can sell the empty space in the cargo hold for freight packages.

Still, the checked bag fee is having the unintended consequence you’d expect:

In the United States, the most visible consequence of baggage fees has been the increase in more, and heavier, items in the passenger cabin, the very behavior that prompted Spirit’s new fee for carry-on policy. A survey by the Association of Flight Attendants found “excess amounts of oversized carry-on items” were causing flight attendants to be injured. Eighty percent of the flight attendants reported muscle pulls and sprains. Thirty-five percent said they were hit by falling bags.

One thing baggage fees were expected to do but have not done is to reduce the turnaround time at the gate. With so many passengers trying to bring everything they need for a trip into the passenger cabin, departures are often delayed to deal with the problem of trying to squeeze too many bags into too little space.

Also, the article doesn’t mention it, but I would imagine that this results in delays at the security checkpoint. If you’re checking bags, you’re probably checking your toiletries and causing as many plastic-bag-related delays with the TSA folk.

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