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Say Noah to climate change

By Tom Toles


The Fee-bag Party

One more thing among the myriad that I don't get. Air passengers in open revolt over fees on baggage. Somewhere along the way it came to be understood as another of our constitutional rights that you can pack the entire contents of your garage into your luggage and the airline will carry it for no charge. Fierce disciples of the free market suddenly start vibrating with anger when a carrier decides how it wants to price its service. It's a little like getting mad at a restaurant for not having one all-you-can-eat price. No, it's EXACTLY like that.

The really strange thing is that baggage is hardly an arbitrary place for pricing. Weight is a significant cost to flying a plane. Nor is it a place in which the consumer is helpless. Pack less, pay less! Did you REALLY need to bring that fire hydrant? What about fees for carry-on items? Does ANYONE enjoy the 20 minutes of slow-motion overhead bin Tetris before the plane takes off? It's NOT gouging. Airlines are not making off with giant profits. It's not nickel and diming. It's straightforward and logical fee for service. Right? --Tom Toles



By Tom Toles  | April 14, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Environment & global warming  
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I completely agree with you... up to a point. :)

I remember days when overhead room was ample. People only carried on things that they needed (a small bag for a book, a couple of toys for the kids, and their jacket). Once airlines started to charge for checked baggage, people began trying to carry on whatever they could to avoid the fee. Nowadays, there's a big stack of rolling suitcases that people want to bring in the overhead bins, delaying the flight.

Airlines should limit the dimensions of what can be carried on in order to exclude rolling suitcases and 4-ft long duffle bags.

As an aside, the reasaon for all of these fees is an easy one. If the airline raises ticket prices, the FAA gets a percentage of the increase. However, airlines keep 100% of any (non-TSA) "fees" that they charge (including baggage, beverage, food, etc).

Posted by: bravo25 | April 20, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Hazel2 bashed it on the crumpet: This is not a straightforward cost at all. I travel for a living, and if my items don't arrive with me, then my workshop / presentation / classroom session is missing some crucial ingredients. You make the claim about weight, but don't deal with the "larger" issue of passenger weight, and you paint everyone with the same brush of bringing excess stuff. I know that I pare my packing down to the bare minimum; I don't want to lug stuff any more than the airline wants to. But the point of traveling is to get somewhere with the tools you need to operate when you arrive. If you get charged extra for any form of luggage you bring, why bother? And why not build that into the ticket price? It's like an elaborate bait-and-switch, where the airline offers a low fare, but by the time you've paid for baggage, lavatory access, and maybe a blanket, it's far more. One price, all inclusive, that's the way it should work.

Posted by: rbdancer | April 16, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

They shouldn't charge for a carry-on bag...

BUT Carry-On Bag means NO ROLLIES!!! You must Carry It On.

Ever since they started charging for Checked Bags people started carrying on everything.

ROLLIES and other Big Bags shouldn't be allowed to be Carried On. Passengers should be required to check such items.

However, passengers should be allowed to carry on at no additional charge: a Purse and/or equivalently sized bags.

Posted by: mcgrupp10799 | April 14, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

If God hadn't meant for your to bring CARRY ON luggage, he would not have put those overhead bins up there. we could have had more headroom.

Posted by: racerdoc | April 14, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Maybe its time to find a different mode of transport to that great big summer vacation. Either that or buy lighter clothes (you won't need Arctic gear in the Caribbean). On the other hand maybe staying at home would be advisable. After all the climate may improve dramatically and therefore negate the need to migrate? Well they do say its getting warmer.........or don't they? I can never be sure these days.

Posted by: KevinColeman | April 14, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Surely the airlines will soon discover that some clothing is heavier than other clothing and will have us disrobe to weigh our clothes so that they can charge a fee. It is a "straight forward, logical fee service" . right Tom?

Posted by: lhco | April 14, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Bag fees are totally appropriate. Airlines are having a hard time and must experiment with ideas to remain fluid (read: free market). Some will fail, some will hit the jackpot, and others will copycat.

Don't like it? You have the final say as to where your dollars go.

sidebar: I wonder what the price point needs to be before FedEx and UPS enter the next-day luggage market. I would pay to never have to lug my case through an airport again. They pickup from my home, it's waiting at my hotel when I get there. Nice.

Posted by: brent6 | April 14, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

" my checked luggage has been lost frequently enough on international flights, and broken into, too,..."

I love these comments. If we counted all the bags people claim to have frequently lost or "I lose my bag every time I fly" there would be a mountain of lost bags the size of Mauna Kea somewhere in the world.

Learn to tag your bags properly, show up in time to get your bag properly checked oh and don't leave the airport without your bag then you'll be just fine.

Posted by: knjincvc | April 14, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The checked baggage charge has led to some of the most ridiculous interpretations of carry-on bags.

The airlines are unwilling to enforce their own rules regarding carry-on policies, so most passengers just use this process to circumvent the charge.

Of course, if you get one of these behemoths through security and the flight crew determines you have to then check your bag, it's free.

I agree with your assessment, Tom, but I also think the airlines need to address the unintended consequences of these fees.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 14, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Tom, you finally said something I can agree with regarding luggage fees.

However, the real challenge is how long these privately owned airlines can even exist. If you believe people like Boone Pickens, some scenarios suggest $300 per barrel oil in the next decade or so. Luggage fees a problem for some? How about Government Airways?

Posted by: gowen1 | April 14, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I'd be happy to pay extra for checking a bag, IF the airlines would reciprocate by removing their absurd restrictions on what can go in carryons (shampoo, wine, tools, etc.) Many of us checking bags are doing so only to comply with the requirements of Security Theater, not because we are taking the contents of our garage.

Posted by: wrybread1 | April 14, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I, for one, would be delighted if the airlines charged by weight, since my scale read 99 lbs. when I got on it this morning.

But what really irks me is the thought of having to pay the same price for both my tiny checked bags and my reasonable carry-ons as for ginormic wheelie bags and trunks. I certainly need a carry on, and not a tiny one, either, as my checked luggage has been lost frequently enough on international flights, and broken into, too, and there are certain items that I MUST carry with me.

But the main reason I ever check bags is because I'm carrying something they might not let me bring into the cabin (an archaeological trowel, a bottle of wine, whatever).

Why should I have to pay $45 extra to carry on a bag of medical supplies and a couple days' worth of clothes, and to check a 4 inch trowel, when the whole thing, me included, barely weighs 130 lbs.?

Charge me for the weight. It's only fair.

Posted by: Itzajob | April 14, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Or you could just stop flying. No one said you have to fly to get someplace. In the current world, as we know it, you can walk, run, jump, skip, hop, ride a bike, drive a car, take a bus, float a boat. LOTS of ways to get from here to there, from there to here. But why listen to me? Go ahead, spend your money. Fly. That's exactly what the airlines are betting you'll do. They win.

Posted by: whisperonthewind | April 14, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Tom -

A few additional thoughts to those already expressed. By your reasoning, then busses should also be able to charge if you decided to have a bag stored underneath, or in the overhead. Would you be OK with that?

Also - Southwest has found a way to not enter the circus of expanding fees. You buy your ticket, your bags fly free, and you get beverages and snacks free. Their flights are packed, and nobody complains. My only hope is they will eventually fly everywhere in the US so I don't have to do ala carte flying with anyone else.

Posted by: CallMeStupid | April 14, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Surcharges by weight with size limitations - OK. Flat surcharge just for having to bring toiletries and a few changes of clothes - not OK. Most travellers don't bring the fire hydrant and those who don't should not have to pay a penalty because some are stupid enough to do so.

Posted by: elfpix | April 14, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Tom: The problem is that everyone over the age of, say, 30 knows that bags used to be free. When you give people something for free, then take it away from them and charge them the same amount of money or even more, they will get annoyed. One of the joys of flying Southwest is that they have retained their free baggage policy because they know it gives them an edge in the marketplace. They got their first edge by not serving food which, on domestic flights, was never better than high school cafeteria grub on any airline. People happily brought a sandwich or whatever on board in return for cheerful, efficient service and a cheap flight. Southwest succeeds while other airlines flail around because they have actually stopped to figure out what matters to customers.(Yeah, I know this sounds like a PR release, but it's not--the first lengthy Southwest flight I took was such a revelation that I will never take another airline domestically unless I can't get where I'm going on Southwest.)

Posted by: jhpurdy | April 14, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Tom -
They already do chagre for bags, it's called your airline fare. What's next, a charge for fuel, or a charge for an actual seat?

You say:
It's straightforward and logical fee for service. Right?

There's nothing straightforward about it. It's like going to restaurant and getting the steak special for 20 bucks, but when the bill comes you're charged $2 for a fork, $3 for a knife, $5 for use of the table and $1 for the printing of the bill.

Posted by: Hazel2 | April 14, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Read James Hansen's book 'Storms of my Grandchildern' the truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last change to save humanity. Check him out on the internet.

Posted by: Hello_earth | April 14, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

I understand bag fees. I would even understand if the airlines put you AND your bags together on a freight scale to charge more for, say, weights over 250 pounds. What I don't get are the nascent fees for an in-flight toilet. If this spreads, I will find a new use for those glassine air sickness bags...

Posted by: DougMUSN | April 14, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse

No proportion in your drawing. Poor shading, crude characters. I bet you couldn't even draw Blinky. Remember, the advertisement in magazines that asked you to draw Blinky and send him in to see if you had aptitude? I don't know which is worse Mr. Toles, your artwork or your politics. Both are mediocre at best.

Posted by: bobbo2 | April 14, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse

Sorry Tom, I won't pay a fee for taking items on the plane with me. I only take computers, electronics and other high dollar items that the airlines refuse to pay for if stolen.

When the airlines cover employee theft of high value items like computers and other electronics then I'll agree to check them as baggage.

Until then they travel in the overhead bin and I'll be darned if I'll pay a fee for the privilege of keeping my property safe from the very people I'm paying to transport me.

This is not a slap at the overwhelming majority of honest and professional airline employees. It is a slap at the airlines who refuse to accept responsibility for the actions of their employees.

Posted by: courry | April 14, 2010 2:57 AM | Report abuse

I think everyone deserves a modest bag. Ideally, everyone would also have a service dog (people who use them don't understand how the rest of us manage), but that doesn't seem likely any time soon.

I'm guilty of bringing home thick books, iron trivets (local handicraft, you know), Chinese jade, an ink stone, porcelain, lacquerware and an advertised-on-TV microwave steamer with a volcano-shaped top. Heavy stoneware, of course. In the past, there were quart bottles of maple syrup from Trader Joe's. I miss those as carry-on items.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 14, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

The human production of carbon is so miniscule compared to the earth's naturally produced carbon you had better build that ark to last a brazillion centuries. What did you load on that thing solar panels, windmills and priuses two by two?

Posted by: carbonhog | April 13, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Tom, I disagree with you on the fees. 1 checked bag (within weight limit) should be free with ticket purchase, and 1 bag (within size and weight limit) should be free for carry on (and yes, laptops count as the 1 carry-on). After that, charge away.

Airlines can control the size and weight of allowed carry-on baggage, but they don't. They can control the size and weight of checked bags, but they rarely did, til they decided to make money off it. Flying is traveling, and travel requires luggage. It is not a Fee for Service - how does one travel with NO bags? It is nickel and diming. I know they don't make money, but hey, they could always raise the ticket prices to their actual cost that includes the necessity of luggage when traveling.

Posted by: Greent | April 13, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

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