Lawmakers to Airlines: Dump Checked-Bag Fees to Ease Traffic Flows

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No one likes those snaking security lines that inch along at a snail's pace. A couple of U.S. senators are challenging the airlines to take action to help eliminate them.

Long, slow-moving airport security lines seem to be the norm these days — a common traveler frustration that’s only expected to get worse this summer. But two U.S. senators say the ticket to speedy security checks is within airlines’ reach: eliminating checked-baggage fees.

In a letter to 12 major U.S. airlines, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) urged them to drop their fees for checked luggage during the summer. The lawmakers maintain that eliminating the fee would compel more travelers to check their bags — rather than packing it on the plane as a carry-on — which would result in shorter lines at security checkpoints.

“We write in the wake of reports of staggeringly-long lines expected this summer at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening checkpoints in airports across the country,” the senators wrote. “We call on airlines to take a smart, common sense step to help thwart this growing problem: Stop charging checked-bag fees during the coming summer months, the busiest travel season of the year.”

The letter points out that airlines with checked-baggage fees have seen a 27 percent increase in roller-bag carry-ons.

Baggage fees have experienced rapid growth since 2008, when American Airlines became the first big carrier to charge for checking even one bag, according to the Associated Press.

“It was a tool that the then-financially troubled industry used to deal with rising fuel prices,” the AP explains.

Since then, the economy has been on the upswing, more people are flying, and fuel prices have plummeted, leading to record profits for airlines, but still — the bag fees remain.

Although the senators admit that suspending the checked-baggage fees won’t eliminate security lines, it should help decrease passengers’ wait times.

“Airlines should help solve these issues, putting passengers before profits, beginning with checked-baggage fees,” the letter says. “Screening congestion is solvable — and this step will help. Please do not stand idly as travelers stand in endless lines.”

Many carriers maintain that having more TSA agents is the key to shorter security lines. Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the industry group Airlines for America, says eliminating checked-bag fees would inadvertently cause another headache for travelers by “making airfare more expensive.”

Considering that baggage fees generated $3.8 million in revenue for airlines in 2015 — according to government data — it’s quite possible that airlines would hike airfare to make up for the loss in bag fees.

What do you think of the senators’ idea of suspending checked-baggage fees for the busy summer travel season? Sound off in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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