Checked bag fees lead to cabin chaos

Airline passengers on a plane open the overhead bins

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Oh, how times have changed in the friendly skies. We used to get all kinds of things included with an plane ticket: meals, pillows, blankets, our luggage on the flight. Some in the airline industry say the advent of
bag fees has led to some unintended consequences. And they want Congress to step in and help.

Marketplace's Rico Gagliano reports.


Rico Gagliano: What happens when airlines charge people to check their bags? According to flight attendants, people just carry more bags onto the plane.

Bill McGlashen is with the AFA -- America's largest flight attendants union.

BILL MCGLASHEN: We're seeing more bags, and we're seeing larger bags. They might not wanna pay the fee, so they're bringing them all on board, and it's simply causing chaos in the cabin.

The AFA recently conducted a survey of attendants on 22 different airlines. 80% of them reported overhead bins -- overstuffed with heavy bags -- are causing injury to attendants and to passengers.

MCGLASHEN: They identified seeing, on a daily basis, passengers being hit on the head, passengers tripping.

All of which led the AFA this week to call for Congress to pass a bill called the Securing Cabin Baggage Act. It would do two things: Set a maximum size for any carry-on bag and force the TSA guards to make sure extra or oversize bags never make it past security checkpoints.

CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT: No, it wouldn't work.

Christopher Elliott is the Reader Advocate for National Geographic Traveler Magazine. And while he says the number one cause of fights on planes is scarce luggage space, he's not sure this bill is the best way to solve the problem.

ELLIOTT: The TSA is screening people for security. You cannot expect a TSA agent to count bags.

The airlines oppose regulation too. They say since every plane has different storage bin sizes, one mandatory carry-on size will not fit all. So what's the solution? Chris Elliott has a suggestion...

ELLIOTT: You have to go back to allowing people to check at least one bag for free.

But with the airlines earning billions from bag fees, Elliott admits that change may be slow in coming.

In Los Angeles, I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.

About the author

Rico Gagliano is the host of Dinner Party Download.

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