Increased airline baggage fees have more passengers toting carry-on luggage, reports the Washington Post. The increased flow of baggage to be inspected has passed the costs on to the Transportation Security Administration, which in turn is passed on to taxpayers. According to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the influx of carry-on luggage is costing approximately $260 million per year.
More carry-on luggage requires more security
So long as carry-on luggage fits an airline’s parameters, travelers have the right to bring it aboard. However, as Napolitano reminded Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairwoman Sen. Mary Landrieu, nothing comes free:
“When you have to pay to check a bag, it increases carry-on luggage, and that means there is more to inspect at the gate and so forth for passengers to get on planes,” she said.
In order for the TSA to be able to function optimally, costs must be absorbed. What’s at stake currently is whether the airlines or U.S. taxpayers should be covering the cost of additional carry-on luggage. Napolitano suggested to Sen. Landrieu and her subcommittee colleagues that increased airport security fees be assessed on airline tickets. By adding an additional $5-$10 per ticket, Napolitano estimates TSA would take in $600 million more per year.
Airport security fees haven’t made it through Congress
An airport security fee is far from a new idea. It has appeared each year since the concept was first proposed in 2002. However, Congress has not approved the airline ticket cost increase. Fewer flights, higher ticket prices and other passenger fees have already contributed to the first profitable year for the airline industry since 2007. Government estimates place 2011 airline profits at $5 billion and $5.6 billion in 2012. Perhaps Congress doesn’t want to push its luck with more fees.
Baggage policies for economy airlines
Knowing exactly what an airline’s baggage policies entail is important before hitting the gate. You may be surprised by what’s free and what isn’t. In general, wheelchairs are checked in as free baggage and do not count toward a traveler’s baggage allotment. Certain airlines allow children’s strollers for free without counting as part of the luggage allowance. In most cases, airlines won’t accept luggage heavier than 100 pounds as checked in baggage. Here are some baggage policy highlights for a trio of major economy airlines:
- Southwest – Two checked bags up to 50 pounds each are free. Extra and oversized luggage ranges from $25 to more than $100.
- JetBlue – One bag weighing 50 pounds or less may be checked for free. The second checked bag costs $50. Up to a 40-pound carry-on luggage piece is also free. Excess or oversized pieces run $50 to $100.
- Virgin America – First checked bag costs $25 and may weigh up to 70 pounds. Subsequent check-ins up to 50 pounds are $25 . Excess and oversized bags run $10 to $50 each.