Green Room

Stop carrying on about our carry-ons, Senator Schumer

posted at 10:11 pm on April 11, 2010 by

Ever wonder what the Nanny State would look like if it could fly? Here’s a glimpse.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday he’s trying to get the federal government to prohibit airlines from charging a fee for carry-on baggage, calling it a “slap in the face to travelers.”

The New York Democrat is making a personal plea to the Treasury Department to rule that carry-on bags are a necessity for travel, which would make them exempt from a separate fee outside the ticket price.

“Airline passengers have always had the right to bring a carry-on bag without having to worry about getting nickeled and dimed by an airline company,” Schumer said. “This latest fee is a slap in the face to travelers.”

Dear Senator Schumer: Let the market deal with this. As annoying as a carry-on bag fee would be, it is exceedingly more annoying to have the government dictating the minutia about how airlines assign and manage their expenses. As any semi-sentient economist knows, legally forbidding a “carry-on fee” doesn’t make it go away; the fee just gets imputed back into the cost of the ticket, which for most airlines the cost of carrying on already includes. Some fees are avoidable; I rarely check a bag these days. Other fees… not so much.

The fact is that everything built into and brought aboard an aircraft has a dollar sign attached to it: the food, the weight of the chairs, the number of flight attendants and pilots, the maintenance of the bathroom… every bit of it costs money and is distributed between the cost of a ticket and independent fees attached to them. But most of the time, those costs aren’t individualized. Do we like paying for checked in bags beyond the cost of our tickets? No. Does the addition of individualized fees affect whether we fly with a particular carrier? Yes, absolutely. Just ask Southwest Airlines and RyanAir. Smart airlines don’t “nickel and dime” their passengers or else the passengers will leave them, and serious governments don’t assign a “right to carry-on for free” (or rather, “without an individualized fee”) simply because a politician deems that right to exist.

The inanity of Senator Schumer’s idea speaks for itself, but if it also eventually speaks for the Treasury Department, it only goes to show that even the sky isn’t the limit for ridiculous government interventions.

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As long as the airlines build their own airports and control the traffic going to those airports using their own resources, I’m OK with the Government butting out.

unclesmrgol on April 11, 2010 at 11:15 PM

Schumer will reverse himself soon enough. Not only will it become mandatory to pay a fee for carry-ons, it will become mandatory to travel with carry-ons. Then it will become mandatory to buy airline tickets, even if you have no plans to travel. Or, I’m sure, you’ll be offered the option of paying a fine and/or going to jail.

While I understand unclesmrgol’s point, I disagree in this instance. Government has a responsibility for certain kinds of infrastructure, but that responsibility doesn’t confer on it the authority to order commerce around. Not only is that a bad economic practice, since government never has a market motive for anything. It’s also a very, very evil political practice. We can withhold our custom from private enterprise, but when government says “Thou shalt,” we must. That power should be kept on a very short leash — starving in the back yard, in fact, beaten down by the sun and rain, and kicked and yelled at regularly.

J.E. Dyer on April 12, 2010 at 12:30 AM

As long as the airlines build their own airports and control the traffic going to those airports using their own resources, I’m OK with the Government butting out.

unclesmrgol on April 11, 2010 at 11:15 PM

Was it “government money” that built these airports and pays for traffic control? Of course not. The airlines pay to use airports’ services and facilities and these costs are passed on to consumers. If the government had some secret stash of its’ own money that paid for this, they could interfere, but of course, there is no “government money”. It’s always the people’s money, so the government should butt out and let the free market determine winners and losers.

PatMac on April 12, 2010 at 8:46 AM

Companies should just increase the price of their tickets instead of charging for every single item that is part of the airline travel experience. This would be like auto manufacturers charging a separate price for wheel axles and tires on their cars.

This is one time where I’m on the side of government sticking its nose in and setting regulations i.e. a ban on extra bag charges or charges to check in your bag. Just raise the blankety-blank ticket prices if you need the revenue.

Old Fritz on April 12, 2010 at 12:04 PM

This is one time where I’m on the side of government sticking its nose in and setting regulations i.e. a ban on extra bag charges or charges to check in your bag. Just raise the blankety-blank ticket prices if you need the revenue.

Old Fritz on April 12, 2010 at 12:04 PM

You’re exactly right that it’s a matter of companies charging up-front in the ticket price or ala carte as some are starting to do but the government should butt out and let the free market decide. If consumers prefer one price ticketing, they’ll gravitate toward the airlines that charge that way, such as Southwest, but why do I need Chuckie Shumer helping me decide what airline I’m going to use or airfare I’m going to pay.

PatMac on April 12, 2010 at 1:13 PM

Old Fritz on April 12, 2010 at 12:04 PM

No, it’s like charging for the option of having a Bose speaker system and Driv chrome wheels on a new Taurus.
I’m traveling LGA to ORD and back tomorrow with no more than a small briefcase . Why should I be charged the same as the person checking two bags and carrying on two bags? That’s a potential 150+ pounds of additional weight that has to be accounted and paid for by the airline. According to your wisdom you would like us all to pay the same for healthcare as well, no matter the price, no matter the condition and no matter what are individual risks may be.

Right now you have choices:
1. Don’t fly
2. Don’t carry any luggage
3. Fly an airline that doesn’t charge the fees
4. Pay the fees
5. Fly enough on one carrier that you are exempt from the additional fees

kwitchyerbichin

CTSherman on April 12, 2010 at 1:25 PM

Old Fritz on April 12, 2010 at 12:04 PM

So basically one airline decides to charge for a carry-on and you’re OK with the Government getting involved and making more stupid laws? I for one, get real tired of boarding a plane and waiting forever while some family of four decides it better to carry all of their bags on board rather than check them.

It’s Spirit Airlines for crying out loud. I for one have never been able to get onto their website because it’s always busy but after seeing one of their planes down in Ft.Lauderdale last month, I’m not too sure I’d even want to fly with them.

Pay the extra money to Spirit. Maybe they can upgrade their fleet and fix their awful server.

Knucklehead on April 12, 2010 at 2:45 PM

How cheap is Chucky Shumer? Mega $$$s Senator Shumer won’t even pop for his own lodgings in D.C., instead opting to share space with Little Dick Durbin and other human chum, all formerly known as citizen legislators. Pay up or go buy your own plane, Chuck, and maybe you might really create a few things called jobs. One of the best alternatives is to use a shipping/mailing service.

MayorDaley on April 12, 2010 at 3:06 PM

I’m all for it, I’m tired of waiting for someone to stuff a bag into the overhead that needs to be pushed, prodded and pounded to get in there. Equally tired of waiting all day to get off the plane while they pull and tug and wrestle with the bag to get it out again.

Think of all the money that can be saved by flights being on time instead of 20 minutes of each flight being taken up by jackasses playing with carry-on luggage.

ButterflyDragon on April 12, 2010 at 5:29 PM

Companies should just increase the price of their tickets instead of charging for every single item that is part of the airline travel experience. This would be like auto manufacturers charging a separate price for wheel axles and tires on their cars.

This is one time where I’m on the side of government sticking its nose in and setting regulations i.e. a ban on extra bag charges or charges to check in your bag. Just raise the blankety-blank ticket prices if you need the revenue.

Old Fritz on April 12, 2010 at 12:04 PM

What? And then have to hear about “Fat Cat Airline CEO’s” raising ticket prices to the point of discriminating against the poor?

ButterflyDragon on April 12, 2010 at 5:31 PM

When it comes to flying, Schumer’s such a bitch.

DrAllecon on April 12, 2010 at 5:31 PM

This is why I wish somebody’d run against this clown. He comes out as a crusader for the little guy, when he’s the one shoving the biggest stick up our collective asses. (insert cheap Barney frank joke here)

Iblis on April 12, 2010 at 5:36 PM

Dear Senator Schumer: Let the market deal with this. As annoying as a carry-on bag fee would be, it is exceedingly more annoying to have the government dictating the minutia about how airlines assign and manage their expenses

Exactly. There’s a reason people choose Southwest. Also, families will stop flying. With 6 of us, we can’t afford flying plus paying for all our bags. Forget it.

conservative pilgrim on April 12, 2010 at 5:39 PM

ButterflyDragon on April 12, 2010 at 5:29 PM

I’m inclined to agree with you. Used to be that carry on stuff was fairly small and compact. Now it’s so large that it does consume time both coming and going for folks to stuff it in or jockey it out. Sometimes they take up so much room that you have to wander up and down to find a place for your smaller stuff. Then there’s the passenger that stuffs in a small suitcase but also has a purse, a diaper bag, a tote bag with a computer and this or that other stuff which apparently does not count as a carry on!

jeanie on April 12, 2010 at 5:43 PM

Schumer is merely advocating for carry-on justice. Afterall, people have a right to everything free … right?

Everything Justice! Now!

darwin on April 12, 2010 at 5:45 PM

Exactly. There’s a reason people choose Southwest. Also, families will stop flying. With 6 of us, we can’t afford flying plus paying for all our bags. Forget it.

conservative pilgrim on April 12, 2010 at 5:39 PM

Heh. Southwest will have checked bag fees as soon as their fuel hedges run out.

The problem with airline fees is that it’s all monkey-see, monkey-do. It’s pretty hard to choose between airline carriers based on fee policy since the vast majority are the same. You end up having to choose based on the “soft product.”

That said, I think enough passengers will get arrested over this that the fees may not stay on carry-on bags.

And I’m all for airlines including the extra BS costs on the ticket, but they’ll never do that since they’re constantly trying to have the lowest number pop up in Travelxpediabitz – they’ll just recoup that with fees later.

The easiest way to avoid the fees is to pour all your miles into one airline and try to make elite status – most of the fees go away then.

fiatboomer on April 12, 2010 at 6:03 PM

Pretty soon, you will buy an airline ticket and pay extra for you to get on the plane. Notice the airlines never lowered their fares when the fuel costs went down?

suzyk on April 12, 2010 at 6:15 PM

In NY this is probably popular. Why do people want politicians to get involved in everything! They only make things worse. Sigh. Grow up America you really can take care of things like this all by your little self. Honest.

petunia on April 12, 2010 at 7:46 PM

If the ticket price is way cheaper than the other carrier, and it works out to my financial benefit, I’ll happily pay the charge for my bitsy carry on. Otherwise I won’t fly them.

I know a good deal when I see one and certainly don’t need Nanny Schumer to be my wetnurse/babysitter.

Doesn’t he need to worry about JOBS???

marybel on April 12, 2010 at 8:19 PM

Schumer is an ignorant communist that does not understand, or even want, a free market!

Freddy on April 12, 2010 at 8:30 PM