Monday, April 12, 2010

Standing athwart the baggage carousel yelling enough!

I'm beginning to wonder if Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has even a tenuous grasp on reality. Via Senatus:

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “said he would introduce legislation that would prevent airlines from charging a fee for carry-on bags,” Reuters reports.

Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he would press the Treasury Department to issue an administrative rule that would define carry-on bags as a "reasonable necessity" to prevent airlines from imposing such charges, calling them a "slap in the face to travelers."

Schumer said if the Treasury Department cannot close what he dubbed a loophole in the law, he will introduce legislation that would mandate carry-on bags as reasonably necessary for air travel.

If there was ever a phenomenon that cried out, "I am not a market failure requiring government intervention," the practice of charging for carry-on bags was it.

Despite what Southwest airlines keeps telling you, bags do not fly free; they never have. If you think that in the good ol' days prior to baggage fees you were somehow sneaking one past the airlines by having them transport your luggage for free, you're kidding yourself. The cost of transporting the bag was part of the cost of your ticket. Any airline that couldn't figure out how to make sure of that, wouldn't be in business very long.

It seems to me baggage fees do two things: 1)They make travelers aware of the cost of transporting a bag. A cost that was always there, but hard for the average traveler to identify. 2) They make travelers who impose higher costs by traveling with more bags, actually pay those higher costs.

While this second feature is bad for people who like to travel with a lot of luggage, it's good for people that do not. In fact, prior to this, people who traveled lightly were subsidizing the ticket price of those who packed a lot of clothes. Has our entitlement mentality ballooned to such a size as to now include reduced cost airfare for the more sartorially inclined traveling public?

The negotiation between airlines and passengers over costs, including the costs of transporting luggage is absolutely no place for the government to inject itself. I simply can't think of any compelling rationale for a government intervention over a carry-on bag fee.

Eliminating the cost of transporting luggage from one destination to another would require a repeal of the laws of physics. Outlawing the practice of charging baggage fees may make the fees disappear, but you can count on the fact that travelers will continue to pay them in the form of higher ticket prices. To pretend otherwise is either an outright lie or a denial of reality so troubling that it may disqualify one from holding public office.

1 comment:

Dad29 said...

Perhaps the Senator was really concerned about the cost of BAGGAGE--which he has plenty of...