The Carry-On Fee

Nov 09, 2010 · 2 mins read
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I’ve been traveling virtually non-stop since last October. I’m okay with that – I actually love the travel, even if it does burn into my blogging time. Because of the various liquids I usually carry (which almost always includes a bottle of wine), I always check a bag. (Thank you TSA, for making it impossible to bring on wine as a carry-on. Grrr.)

I’m living for the day when I’m Delta Medallion status (that day will be soon) because at that point, my checked bags are free. Until then, I’m paying Delta $23 per bag, each way. Thankfully, it’s not yet each leg of the flight, although I wouldn’t put it past them.

On Tuesday, discount airline Spirit announced that they will now be charging for – are you ready for this? – carry-ons. Depending on several items (whether you are a member of their Frequent Flier program, whether you pre-reserve overhead space), you can be charged between $20-$45 per item that goes in an overhead bin, with the fee assessed AT THE GATE.

Now, just the logistics alone of assessing the fee at the gate is going to screw things up. Boarding a plane is often a hassle anyway. With everyone pulling out credit cards, cash, travelers cheques, etc, it’s just going to get messier. But beyond that, I’m floored they’re charging for carry-ons.

I fully admit I get frustrated watching inexperienced travelers try to force gigantic bags into the overhead. (My own overhead roller bag was specifically made for that space and slides right in, wheels first, without an issue.) I lose patience every flight as someone or another desperately shoves and pushes on a bag that just shouldn’t fit in that overhead compartment, squishing and occasionally breaking, other people’s items. Despite my loss of patience with this, I also understand it. People wouldn’t be trying to bring everything on the plane with them if it didn’t cost them $23 to check a bag (and the price goes up with each bag checked). The airlines are basically forcing people to shove their lives into an overhead bin.

You’re probably thinking that Spirit is just some tiny discount airline and none of the majors will pay attention to this. Not so. Spirit was actually the first to charge for checked bags. It’s almost like they’re the money-hungry guinea pigs. If it works, they’ve set a precedent that other airlines will have no trouble following.

It’s a horrible circle. The no-liquids security rule has forced many people to check bags and, well, pay. I’ve always felt like the airlines were taking advantage of that regulation. Now, since no one wants to pay for checked bags, people are shoving gigantic bags into the overhead. And we’re going to be charged for that?

Suitcase image used under Creative Commons from Paul Lowry.

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Michelle Lentz
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