Shame on the airlines for charging baggage fees. Shame.
In the land of the free, it should be our democratic and libertarian right to have two free checked in bags and free carry-on baggage.
Indeed, last week, Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a bill to protect precisely those rights.
In his heavy hitting statement before introducing the bill, Chuck decried that, "When you charge for a carry-on bag it is a slap in the face for anyone who flies. We're fed up with airlines that keep nickel and dime-ing the passengers from departure to arrival."
Precisely. Heck, I'm even fed up with airlines and governments that gouge me for hundreds of dollars. But best to start with the nickels and dimes.
But hey, this isn't nickel and dime territory. United, US Air, and Delta now charge $25 for the first checked bag. And then up to $600 per bag for your sixth checked piece of luggage. Who can go anywhere for more than a weekend with less than six bags?
Even Southwest, the super cheapie who still lets you check in two bags free of charge, is going to dong you $50 a piece for your third and, if you are going on a longish holiday, another $110 for your tenth checked bag.
Is this unfair or what?????
Not that it's fair over here in Asia, where we only get to check in one bag free of charge and then pay through the nose for the rest. I'd just never realized that I should be subsidizing other passengers' excess baggage. Damn unthoughtful of me.
On top of checked in baggage, the People are up in arms about Spirit Airlines now charging up to $45 for carry-on baggage. Duh! They never expected that charging for checked baggage would result in more carry-on bags -- that came as a complete surprise. Especially as the carry on limit is one bag plus one briefcase!
But what on earth could have prompted airlines to, all of a sudden, begin charging for checked and carry-on luggage after decades of not charging?
Some would say that it's healthy competition. Others (such as I) may contend that this is merely the free market following a natural progression due to changes in the regulatory environment.
Back in January, the Treasury ruled that airlines should receive preferential tax treatment for fees on services that are not deemed necessary for air transportation -- and that transporting bags through the air wasn't necessary for air transportation.
I think the responsible treasury official either had a massive brain fart at the time or, more likely, is approaching early retirement through the revolving door into the airline industry.
Nevertheless, it's an interesting concept. Naturally, more legislation will be required to undo the impact of earlier legislation to simplify the tax code.
If we follow this to its logical conclusion, we can break down the basics of what is "deemed necessary for air transportation" and what isn't.
Here's what's necessary: Transport you from A to B.
Here's what's not necessary: Check-in baggage, carry-on baggage, food, water, seat, toilet, stewardess service, climate control, airport check-in service (you can do it on the internet), internet check-in service (you can do it on the phone), phone check-in service (you can do it at the airport), and the fuel surcharge left over from when oil was at $130 a barrel.
Think I'm being absurd? Think again. Ryan Air is already planning a fee for using the toilet!
The logical conclusion is that flying in the US will follow the £3 model from Ryan Air:
· Ticket: Awesomely cheap at just £3
· Online check-in: £5
· Administration fee: £10
· Airport boarding card: £40
· First bag fee: £20
· Second bag fee: £40
· More if you don't take your own pot to piss in.
Compared to this, US airlines charging for bags may seem somewhat innocuous. But this is just the thin edge of the wedge. Just as well senators are on the ball to prevent this dastardly threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of free.