I think about this every time I fly

But I couldn't have stated my objection to baggage fees any better than Sanjoy Mahajan, writing in Freakonomics. Amen.

The Absurdity of U.S. Air Travel: Baggage Fees
Baggage fees brought U.S. airlines in 2011 a total of $3.4 billion. That amount is almost one-half of the industry’s 2011 profits of $7 billion. To double the airlines’ profits, the social benefit of which is highly unclear, society incurs many costs: 
  1. We spend time and effort schlepping luggage through the airport and the checkpoint security theater – a kind of demodernization where human (customer) labor replaces technology (conveyor belts and baggage trucks).
  2. TSA employees spend time scanning the luggage for water, baby formula, breast milk, and other dangerous substances.
  3. We take longer to board as we jostle for the few spots in packed overhead bins — or, finding no spot, we wriggle backward down the aisle to hand over the bag for gate checking.
  4. Airline employees spend time gate checking individual bags.
  5. Planes lose their scheduled takeoff slot because of the longer boarding time, thus increasing flight delays (unless turnaround times increase, which is also costly).
  6. Upon landing, in the rush to open the overhead bins, we risk heavy bags falling on our heads.


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