Friday, January 22, 2010

Baggage Fees

Check-in baggage fees are ruining air travel in the U.S.

I travel for business 2-4 times a year, always by plane.

This is despite promising not to fly after September 11, 2001 (not because of terrorism, but because of tyranny). The tyranny isn’t so bad with the right spices and a bit of butter.

I’ve only been patted down once and puffed once in the 10-12 trips I’ve taken in the past 2.5 years. The TSA folks are excessively cranky and don’t know what they’re talking about*, but that’s generally not so bad.

I’ve had the dubious advantage of flying Southwest more often than not, so I didn’t realize the dynamic that baggage fees were causing.

I don’t mind paying the fees. Really, I don’t. In fact, as many complaints as I have with Delta after the last two weeks (eight flights total), I appreciate their relatively low price of $20 for the first piece of luggage.

Even though they don't charge much, it has still turned flying into the most miserable thing still allowable under the Geneva Convention.

Many people are trying to fit all of their travel needs into very large carry-ons.

It’s taking literally 30-45 minutes longer to load a six-seat wide plane. I saw several people on each flight that had carry-ons that were larger than my check-in and loaded to twice-capacity.

Even with a normal-sized check-in, I’m now frequently obligated to gate-check my carry-on because there isn’t enough room on the plane for the luggage that should have been checked.

Though Southwest makes me miserable, I’m probably going to be flying them for the foreseeable future. Flying is a substantial hassle even without the luggage fees.

*Two weeks ago, a group of people at RDU were told that all electronics had to be removed from their carry-ons for x-ray magic. I’ve never heard that before, and none of the three trips I took since then made the same requirement.

Some TSA demand I take off my OCD-coping ticket pouch, and others don’t. Someone is wrong. Which ones, who can say.

Also, if any TSA folks can explain to me which of the following makes my check-in a target for your special harassment, I’d appreciate it: St. John’s Wort, two network cables, a multi-tool (like a leatherman, but not), wireless mouse and receiver, disposable pens, or my bright green (and currently missing) TSA-friendly lock.

And, while I have you, how can security possibly be helped in even the smallest way by demanding to see my ID when I leave the airport?

Update 3/14/2010: I’ll be giving JetBlue and other airlines that don’t charge for luggage my business for the foreseeable future. I’ve debated whether or not to make this edit for about a month now and have finally decided that, yes, I will comment on it. SouthWest personnel insinuated that director Kevin Smith was too fat to fly and on his next flight humiliate a young lady in order to make it look like they hadn’t singled Kevin out for special treatment.

I’m not a Kevin Smith fanboy (though I do adore his work with Green Arrow). My disinterest in supporting SouthWest isn’t about being a fan. It’s about the general mistreatment of overweight folks in the U.S. It’s about the assumption that overweight folks are overweight because of laziness … even if those overweight people exercise hard two and a half hours a day and eat a diet that rabbits would starve on for months without seeing any change in their weight.

This attitude in U.S. culture prevents many overweight people from getting adequate health care and makes an already difficult life that much more difficult.

If you’re unaware of the problems overweight folks face in the U.S., please read First, Do No Harm and listen to the two podcasts I linked. They’re not comprehensive, but they’re a great place to start.

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