Airlines over the past several years have begun charging for all kinds of things that used to be “free” (they weren’t ever “free”, they just hid the cost in your ticket price).
One of the worst offenders to this list of fees, though, is the inane charge for your first checked bag whereas carry-on baggage is free. Southwest doesn’t charge for your first two checked bags – and other airlines won’t if you have status or book your flight with their branded credit card – which is the model all airlines should use. But they need to add charging for anything for than your FAA-recognized “personal item”.
Why? Because finding overhead bin space for bulky carry-on bags is what slows most boardings to a crawl. And it is what makes most travelers most frustrated when getting on the plane – not in the first or second boarding groups? They’re going to check your bag(s) for you anyway because all the bin space is taken. (Add-in the ridiculous seat pitch, and you can hardly put anything but a small backpack or purse down by your feet anyway.)
My solution: give the first (and maybe second) checked bags away for free. But charge heavily for carry-on baggage that is more than a personal item (ie your laptop case or purse). (I’d allow an exception for items purchased in-airport from the duty-free shops – they can be carried-on free, too.) By “heavily”, I mean at least $50.
And I would eliminate that crazy practice of gate-checking your bag when getting onto a commuter flight: just check the bag and don’t bottleneck the jetway getting on and off for the rest of us who weren’t as narcissistic as to think bringing our roll-aboards onboard was a good idea.
With the TSA suggesting everyone arrive at least 2 hours before their flight, there is no reason you wouldn’t have time to check your bags. And with the hassle of trying to navigate a crowded terminal dragging your wheelie duffel behind you, everyone should love the idea of just getting it at baggage claim.
“But what about lost bags?” I hear you ask. Lost and misdirected baggage happens. But it’s pretty rare. It’s something that has happened to me the sum total of 3 times in my flying life (the last 18 years, several of which included flying frequently for work). And of those 3 instances, only 1 ended up with the bag going to the wrong airport – each of the other two ended up with the bag arriving before I did.
Frontier Airlines gets it right (almost – on the carry-on aspect they do, but they still charge for checked bags). Mash Southwest’s checked policy with Frontier’s charging for carry-ons, and you would have a worlds-better flight experience.
The other major benefit to this plan: your time going through TSA will be shorter – the fewer bags that have to be scanned, the less time it will take to get through.