Baggage Blackmail

Some airlines are imposing stricter limits on baggage, both checked and carry-on, and the idea seems to be spreading.  Let’s call this what it is – money-grubbing by a desperate industry.

The notion that charging hundreds of dollars to let you check more than one bag is some way to streamline customer service is ridiculous. It’s a way to extract more money from passengers – and to abuse baggage handlers by encouraging people to pack fewer, heavier bags.

I’m slightly persuaded by the argument that higher fuel costs justify stricter weight limits, though I don’t see why the weight can’t be distributed across more bags. But then if weight is the criteria, it rather suggests that airlines should charge passengers by the pound. So if you’re 6-foot-4 and weigh 240 pounds, you’ll pay for that, even if you take up only one seat.

Remember that many airline passengers aren’t on vacation or a short business trip – they’re moving or going to school or taking a two-year Peace Corps assignment. My kid is going to study in Spain for a month. My sister flies all over the world to do relief work in third-world countries for months or years at a time. And she pays for overweight bags, too. Now she can just pay more.

So, anyway, if airlines are going to collect more money from passengers who carry more luggage, shouldn’t they charge less for those who carry less?

The husband and I flew to Europe last year with small, carry-on bags only. Do we get to make up for that on our next flight with more and heavier bags? Do we get a refund? Or can we just donate our unused luggage space to somebody who needs it?


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