Two US Senators — Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal — want airlines to drop checked bag fees for the summer to reduce TSA checkpoint lines.
Two U.S. senators say one way to reduce long airport security lines this summer is for airlines to drop their fees on checking luggage.
It’s the latest suggestion for dealing with what could be a hellish summer at the nation’s airports. Airlines are already warning passengers to arrive at least two hours early to get through security and catch their flights.
Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday they asked executives at 12 airlines to drop checked-bag fees this summer.
The senators say suspending the fees won’t eliminate lines but it’s a start.
The idea is that passengers would be willing to check bags if they didn’t have to pay to do so, and lines would be shorter at security checkpoints with fewer bags to be screened there.
I’d point out three things, however.
- Passengers will have to wait in line to check bags instead of waiting to have their bags screened. Without widespread US adoption of permanent electronic bag tags, you still have to show up early and wait — just in a different line.
- Checked bags get screened, too. So the system would be stressed along a different dimension.
- The government has already limited bags going through the checkpoint. Prior to 9/11 and the federalization of airport security, passengers used to be able to take two carry ons onboard and not just one carry on and a personal item. The federal government already pushed to limit bags going through the checkpoint for its own convenience giving us the carry on policies we have today.
Before 9/11 Continental Airlines installed bigger overhead bins precisely so that passengers could carry on more stuff. They viewed it as a competitive advantage. They even successfully sued United under antitrust laws to get baggage sizers removed from security at Washington Dulles, and they sued United over Denver and Delta over San Diego to remove bag sizers as well.
Checkpoint baggage sizer
Setting government limits on how airlines can serve customers reduces differentiation between carriers in an already monkey see/monkey do industry. If you complain airlines aren’t competing enough, you wouldn’t want the government telling them they all have to be the same, you’d want the rules limiting you to one carry on lifted and then having them compete for passenger business.
Congress came up with the idea of limiting the size of carry on bags and requiring the TSA to re-install bag sizers at checkpoints back in 2009. It didn’t go anywhere. This is similar grandstanding. Unfortunately the airlines’ approach to fixing airport security screening is no better.