Dan Gillmor

The Incredible Stupidity of Airlines Charging for the First Checked Bag

So United Airlines baggage information page informs us that unless you’re a frequent or upgraded passenger, you’ll pay $15 for the first bag you check. This follows American Airlines’ lead.

Lemmings are smarter than this.

The policy is guaranteed — absolutely guaranteed — to lead to on-plane fighting for overhead space. It will turn an already lousy experience into the kind of chaotic crappiness that will leave everyone in a terrible mood. People in Group 4 will board, or attempt to board, with the earlier boarders — and dare the gate agents to do something about it.

Everyone knows that fares have to rise, at least everyone with a shred of common sense. The airline industry is trapped in fuel-price hell, and through no fault of its own can’t cover the cost of flying the planes.

You can make an argument that people with luggage are carrying extra weight and should pay more. But by that logic, obese and simply large people should pay more than children and petite women. (Obese people who take half of someone else’s seat should have to buy two seats, but that’s a different issue.)

The airline industry is caught in a vortex. It isn’t evil, but policies like this show it’s damned stupid.