My Three Cents

I have written before about some of the public relations problem of airlines — specifically the complications passengers with carry-on luggage face when boarding planes, and the congestion it causes in the aisle until everyone is seated.  Further, I have noted the discriminatory policies of airlines charging $25 to those who do not carry on their luggage, for checking it through and picking it up in baggage carousels at destination.

“As airlines have zealously adopted baggage fees, there’s been a dramatic drop in the number of checked bags,” Travel + Leisure magazine reported last year.

I can support that assertion with plenty of anecdotal evidence.  For one, I have noticed that passengers boarding in the latter part of the  boarding process — more often lately than ever before — are not finding  space availability for their suitcases in the bins directly above their seats, and are having to walk many rows back to find an open bin.  This is very inconvenient when you’re attempting to enter or leave the plane “against the tide.” 

I was on a plane in Istanbul where a late boarding passenger seated in the ninth row could only find room for his suitcase in a bin at the rear of the plane.  He engaged in a loud, nasty encounter with the flight attendant until some accommodation was made.

A friend recently advised that she was on a plane where the bins were so packed that passengers were asked to keep their coats on their laps!!  Incredible.

The latest scenario was a plane my wife and I took from Chicago to New York. 

We checked our bags and paid the $50 fee and were annoyed when our carrier (American Airlines) subsequently announced “complimentary luggage check-in” for anyone who would relinquish their carry-on bags. This happened while we were seated at the gate before takeoff.

My son and his girlfriend, who were there with us, had decided they were going to carry on their bags.  After standing in the boarding line and passing through the ticket approval point, they were stopped and asked to have their bags measured to ensure they met the required dimensions.  (To do this, one inserts his or her bag in a measurement device where the determination is made.)  Although they had carried on their bags many times before, this time it was determined that their bags were too big to carry on!  They would have to be checked through.  But there was no $25 per bag charge for that.  Is that fair? 

What I object to is the chaos and discriminatory policies when it comes to checking-in versus carrying-on.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, domestic airlines collected $3.4 billion in revenues from baggage fees in 2013.  I don’t believe these charges are going to go away any time soon.  They’re probably going to multiply.  Earlier this month, for example, Frontier Airlines announced that it would begin charging up to $50 for stowing a bag in the overhead bin. 

If a bag’s dimensions for carry-on are critical, the airlines need to do a better job of building awareness of what those dimensions are.  They should be on mailers, email, posters at the airport, relevant websites, radio ads, plus multiple other vehicles that reach consumers. Furthermore, their policies regarding carry-ons — as well as the $25 charge per bag — need to be reviewed.  Fairness must reign and discrimination must end. 

Consumers need all airlines, but they will gravitate to the airlines where integrity is the highest.

thought leadership


228 East 45th Street
New York, NY 10017


1101 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 450
Washington, DC 20036