While traveling this weekend, I started thinking why airlines don’t charge for carry-on baggageinstead of checked baggage. Carry-on baggage imposes much more burden on others in the travel experience, and it makes sense to incentivize people NOT to carry on their bags.
First of all, carrying on your bag (vs. checking your bag) is a privilege which people place value on. Despite the inconvenience of hauling your bag around the airport, carrying your bag allows you to save time, because you don’t have to wait at baggage claim at your destinatoin. Carrying your bag also virtually negates the chances of your bag being lost or delayed by the airline.
The downside of carrying on are that you have to get your bag through security and drag it everywhere with you. By incentivizing people to carry-on their bags, the airlienes are exacerbating these downsides. To avoid paying for checked baggage, more and more people now try to bring a fully stuffed bag with everything they need through security checkpoints, which adds time and hassle in the security checkpoint screening process. Also, as people try to board, they have to figure out where to put these bags, theuy stall the boarding process while they try to fit their oversized bags into the luggage bins, and invariably, overhead space always runs out on full flights.
Basically, incentivizing people to bring overstuffed carry-ons is a drag on the whole process, and it’d be better if more bags were checked at the counter. When the liquid ban first went into effect, I remember reading articles about how flight attendants were relieved at how much less carry-on baggage there was. We could partially restore this state by charging for carry-ons and allowing at least one free checked bag…
Of course there should be some exemptions. People traveling with children (particularly infants) have to carry some items, as well as those with medical needs/medication. One way might be to still allow one free “personal item” or perhaps just allow only one carry-on, be it a personal item or carry-on bag. And of course, there should be some exemption for elite members, as there is with checked baggage currently.
The other side of this issue is enforceability. How would airlines make sure people actually pay for carry-ons? One possible model is to look to the rest of the world. In other countries, particularly with discount airlines, airlines charge for all your and checked bags according to their weight. Airlines and TSA would have to find some way of tagging things to indicate that they have been cleared for carry-on, and do this in a way that isn’t too easy to scam.
Overall, I think the benefits of figuring out a way of charging for checked baggage instead of carry-on would be beneficial for the travel experience. Listen up airlines!