Carrying too much baggage

The airlines' checked bag fees have done exactly what you'd expect them to do: Generate revenue and create problems. As we reported this morning, flight attendants want the government to do something about the latter.

If you've flown anytime recently, you know why the largest flight attendants union is griping. To avoid the checked bag fees, passengers are overstuffing their carry-ons, which is causing arguments and even injuries. The union wants Congress to pass the "Securing Cabin Baggage Act." From the Marketplace Morning Report:

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.

Please, no. The airline agents are supposed to do this, and in my recent experience, they are being more vigilant about bag size. But each plane is different, and each airline has different policies, so there's going to be tension and frustration. The airlines brought this upon themselves, and airline consultant Jay Sorenson says passengers are going along with it:

"The airlines have not seen a significant pushback from consumers with the baggage fees, so they don't find it discouraging. Instead, it somehow emboldened them."

Sorensen likens the airline industry and its players to characters in the Wizard of Oz. He described the wizard as "a supreme ruler, but not all great and powerful," a role played by the major airlines since they aren't "sitting on a heap of cash" as some consumers may think, he said.

Rather, he said, the airlines have suffered because of the economic downturn, and they were hit hard by rising crude oil prices. The world's oil markets, he said, are the wicked witches in this act.

And the good witch? Southwest Airlines, he said.

Southwest's "Bags Fly Free" strategy is capping the baggage fees at other airlines, but how long will Southwest stick with its plan?

According to Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins, consumers don't need to worry about the airline implementing baggage fees in the near future.

"We will never say never just because you can't in this world," Hawkins said. "But our leadership feels very strongly that people don't want to be nickeled and dimed, and that in the long run, it's more advantageous to our business model to not impose something on customers that we feel they should get for free or included in the cost of their ticket."

But Sorensen believes Southwest could reach a tipping point. His research notes that if Southwest achieved Delta Air Line Inc.'s baggage fee revenue of $7.32 per passenger, Southwest's 100 million annual passengers would contribute $732 million to its bottom line.

The point being -- baggage fees may only continue to increase. Do you think the government should do something here? Or is it simply up to passengers to force the airlines' strategies?

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Isn't there already a law that indicates that a ticket price shown to a customer should include all taxes and fees at time of purchase? If so, how are the airlines getting around that? It's clearly a fee, and I don't see it in the price tag, and it seems a little silly to expect people to not travel with baggage.

My issue is with passengers who have seats in the rear of the plane, yet stow their bags in the front overhead bins to avoid carrying them to the rear. This leaves no space for those seated in the front; this is rude and inconsiderate of others.

Dennis is right on. I think they should just add the fee to the ticket and have done with it. SW isn't "charging" for bags, but you know it's bundled in there. As it should be. One thing it has made me do is make for darn sure I fly with my carrier of choice so that I retain elite status. When I have to pay for the luggage to be checked it makes me angry waaaay out of proportion to the fee. It's just gouging. They've already covered the nominal cost of handling the bags anyway. When you fly a regional carrier, you have to check the carry-on baggage anyway. because it's too big for the bins. BUT I think the airlines should enforce this, not the government.

this reminds me of bank overdraft fees. companies scam us of less than $50, so we get upset, but don't do anything, just gripe and they get to swimm in money collected from everyone. What ever happened to honesty, oh it got corrupted by greed.

Why do airlines need to have the government set their business policies for them? Any other business would create and implement its own business policies and practices.

Is there a congress enacted law for "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service"?

A government mandate for "Personal Checks Not Accepted. Cash or Credit Card Only"?

A presidential order for "Express Check Out Lane. 15 Items or Less"?

The airlines should just be enforcing their own carry-on rules.

I think this is something of a sign of the declining power of the unions. In the old days the unions probably could have pushed back on this more succesfully and gotten results from management without government help.

The airlines should just be enforcing their own carry-on rules.

I think this is something of a sign of the declining power of the unions. In the 'old days' the unions probably could have pushed back on this more succesfully and gotten results from management without government help.

That first bag should definitely be bundled in the airline ticket. These baggage fees discriminate against those who can't lift their bags -- or they carry them on and have to plead with others to lift them for them. I never like being charged for something I can't do because I've herniated 2 disks. Neither do I think the flight crews and fellow passengers should take on excessive lifting. The idea of a longer flight already makes me shudder in anticipated pain. And they think of another way of making the disabled avoid travel...

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