Why Eliminating Baggage Fees Will Not Reduce Long Lines

I f two senators of the United States have it their way, twelve airlines based in the United States will stop charging baggage fees for the summer in order to reduce long lines at airport security checkpoints around the country.

Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts can keep dreaming — and here are the reasons why eliminating baggage fees will not reduce long lines.

Ancillary Fees are Too Profitable for Airlines

Despite domestic airfares supposedly being at their lowest cost in five years, ancillary fees — especially fees to check baggage — have brought billions of dollars worth of revenue to airlines based in the United States. Suspending the charging of fees to check baggage during the summer months could mean a loss of at least two billion dollars — and most likely more — to the airlines.

I may not support the charging of ancillary fees; but the airlines would be crazy to voluntarily give up that revenue. Ancillary fees arguably are what saved the remaining existing airlines from financial disaster.

Who Wants to Check Baggage, Anyway?!?

Not me.

Remember the “old days” when anyone could check their baggage free of charge? That option was not popular then — even when it was included in the price of an airline ticket — due to luggage being lost; or having your belongings appearing last on the conveyor belt at the baggage claim area of the airport.

Still — with all of that revenue derived by airlines from fees to check baggage — someone is paying them; but I still do not believe that there would be any significant impact in the mitigation of long lines at airport security checkpoints, because…

Some People are Clueless

Let us not be politically correct here. How many times have you been on a line meant for expedited screening of frequent fliers — such as the Pre✓ program from the Transportation Security Administration, which I still suspect is the product of a marketing campaign — only to have someone in front of you who was unprepared and did not belong in that line in the first place, fiddling with liquids, removing portable electronic devices, taking off clothing containing metal, and other requirements which significantly delay the line?

I do not place all of the blame on those passengers. Some of them simply do not know any better, as they travel infrequently — and that is not meant to be an insult. If agents of the Transportation Security Administration better maintained the integrity of the lines to ensure that all passengers pass through as quickly as possible, long lines would not be nearly as frequent an occurrence at airport security checkpoints, in my opinion.

Summary

Missed flights by passengers due to long lines at airport security checkpoints is unacceptable, resulting in lost time and money in general — and despite the well-intentioned efforts of Blumenthal and Markey, the suspension of fees by airlines to check baggage is not the answer, in my opinion.

I believe that all lanes of an airport security checkpoint should operate similarly to the Pre✓ program from the Transportation Security Administration — perhaps with the exception of one or two lanes reserved for neophytes of air travel, where friendly agents will assist to ensure that those passengers are processed with as little anxiety as possible — and passengers should not have to pay extra money for the privilege of being processed as quickly as possible, as they already pay through taxes charged on their airline tickets. Simplify the rules and policies without sacrificing security in terms of processing passengers at airport security checkpoints.

If that will not work, then perhaps consider my proposal for four different types of lanes at airport security checkpoints in the United States.

Follow those simple common-sense recommendations, and more agents of the Transportation Security Administration do not need to be hired while passengers simultaneously spend significantly less time at airport security checkpoints — all without costing extra money.

In other words, Peter Neffenger — who is the current administrator of the Transportation Security Administration of the United States: run your agency and the airport security checkpoints under its purview more efficiently…

…and instead of bothering the traveling public and lawmakers with the problems of your agency; perhaps you and your staff should solve them.

Katrina Callin reviews the identification of a passenger at one of the checkpoints at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.  Source: Transportation Security Administration.

4 thoughts on “Why Eliminating Baggage Fees Will Not Reduce Long Lines”

  1. Vicente says:

    I disagree. This reminds me of the infamous statement by

    My sister HAS to travel to get to medical treatment on a regular basis. She has mobility issues, which make it possible but difficult to put a bag in overhead bin. When she flies Southwest, she checks her bag. When she has to fly some other airline, well she struggles and no doubt slows up security, and the boarding process.

    My Dad is just a cheapskate, and wouldn’t pay an “extra” under any circumstances. Same thing, he’ll take advantage of Southwest, but if he’s on another airline well you have to wait behind the 80+yo at security as he fumbles the process, and again when his shoulder injury makes it a struggle to hoist.

    I don’t have to rely on personal anecdotes however like you do. The simple fact is over the years as baggage fees came in, our bins became overcrowded and security lines longer.

    It’d be nice to see fat profits make their way back to customers. Rollback those fuel surcharges too. I’m not holding my breath.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Medical reasons — such as those of your sister — should be included in the neophyte line at an airport security checkpoint, Vicente. I say that not to be insulting; but rather she deserves to receive all of the assistance she needs without the anxiety that I am certain she feels at times — whether going through a security checkpoint or using an overhead storage bin aboard an airplane.

      I can understand the point of view of your father. I am sure he remembers the days when checking baggage did not prompt a fee; and old habits die hard. Why pay for something which used to be part of the cost of an airline ticket — even if the airline ticket is supposedly cheaper today when adjusted for inflation?

      Despite our differing points of view, I found myself not disagreeing with what you wrote — especially as I agree with this statement: “It’d be nice to see fat profits make their way back to customers. Rollback those fuel surcharges too. I’m not holding my breath.”

      Amen.

  2. askmrlee says:

    While the TSA lines are unpredictable the big pain is the bag drop off line. Because ID has to be checked, luggage weighed, size checked, bag tags applied this still manual process takes time even if you’ve already checked-in online.

    Not to mention the slow pokes in the line who don’t go to the next ready kiosk because they are waiting for a human to say “next in line”, people who don’t step away from the kiosk after they’ve completed their transaction, or the best when one lady proclaimed “these are NOT the seats I requested!” and hogged the kiosk.

    I’d love to see a self-check-in area like they now have at AMS where you can completely check in your bags yourself after your ID is checked.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      With few exceptions, I am all for doing everything myself, askmrlee — and what you suggest sounds like it would be no exception to me.

      Then again, I rarely ever check bags anyway…

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