Airlines around the world have been battered pretty severely over the last 7 years. Facing the double-barrel of global terrorism and rising fuel costs, the airlines have had to fight tooth and nail to remain viable. Plenty of them haven’t and have disappeared altogether. Other casualties of this upheaval include free meals, free drinks, ample legroom and many of the quaint niceties that used to make flying such a pleasure.
Consumers are partly to blame for the loss of many of the old amenities that were taken for granted when flying 15 years ago. We have become more ruthless in our selection of flights, choosing more and more to select flights with the lowest price, forsaking brand loyalty and in-flight perks in the process. The airlines have responded to these demands by stripping flights of their frills, cramming more seats into economy and re-instating the class system in earnest. Anyone hoping to fly by yester-year’s standards can still do so, provided they are willing to cough up the change.
However, the airlines have taken things one step to far in choosing to charge customers to check baggage. In the past, you would expect to pay extra if you were bringing more than the standard 2 suitcases, and this was deemed fair by all involved. But the notion that it is OK to charge everyone from the very first suitcase is nonsense. Part of getting from point A to point B (which is the primary function of aeroplanes) is being able to arrive with the things you will need. Students, for example, who are studying far from home rely on being able to bring the important basics with them. People relocating to other parts of the country, and indeed the world, need to arrive with supplies to last them while settling in. While I understand the inconvenience it may cause to business and leisure travellers, stuck in line behind families and individuals with bags to check, their relatively privileged position should give them pause for a little empathy.
What I propose as a fairer solution would be to offer discounts or perks to individuals who are checking one or no pieces of luggage. The annoyed businessmen and holiday makers would benefit directly by receiving a discount every time they fly without checked bags, and it would provide a strong incentive for everyone else to pack lighter, which would likely make the aircraft more fuel efficient over all. Sounds like a win-win-win to me, without all of the ill will generated by charging customers to check their bags.