From the WSJ (The tough tactics to avoid luggage check-in fees), here is the problem:
To avoid baggage fees, which have now been in place more than three years, passengers have continued to bulk up their carry-on bags, turning the allotment of one bag and a purse or briefcase into a two-suitcase load. Some game the system by fully intending to check a bag—they volunteer at the gate instead of the counter, and thus avoid the airline fee that usually runs $25 for a first bag and $35 to check a second bag.
United Airlines says its passenger surveys show more domestic customers now are carrying on the biggest bags that carry-on rules allow. ...
Airlines have stepped up efforts to police carry-on limits, patrolling airport lobbies to intercept pack-mule passengers and force them to check bags that violate limits before they get through security. Some carriers even use it as an opportunity to pitch their affinity credit cards that offer waivers of fees on the first checked bag.
Carriers also say they are making more announcements at gates with full flights seeking volunteers to gate-check bags before the boarding stampede begins. ...
And on board planes, US Airways flight attendants and gate agents keep an eye out for empty under-the-seat space and "work with our customers to make sure that they are putting their personal item under the seat in front of them'' to open up bin space, a spokeswoman said.
Fights between passengers for overhead bin space are extremely rare, airlines say. But Catherine Jorgens feared mayhem was about to erupt on a Frontier Airlines flight where passengers did argue over jamming bags into already-full bins. ...
I had titled this post "missing markets" in my head and my comments would have begun like this "If there is a shortage of overhead space then the price is too low ...." but Spirit Airlines ruined it for me. But, good for them in identifying the solution:
Miramar, Fla.-based Spirit Airlines, which tries to offer dirt-cheap fares and hits customers with lots of add-on fees for everything from soft drinks to window seats, added a fee for carry-on bags that go in overhead bins last year. That drew the wrath of travelers and several members of Congress. But Spirit says the fee removes the financial incentive for passengers to avoid checking bags by loading up on carry-ons. Carry-ons can cost as much as $40 each way, more expensive than Spirit's checked-bag fee, which starts at $28 and goes as high as $38, depending on how and when you pay it.
On average, each flight has saved five to six minutes of time spent checking bags at gates, Spirit Chief Executive Ben Baldanza said. The airline has seen in-flight injuries from items falling out of overstuffed bins decline by half (airlines say those injuries are rare).
The carry-on fee gets you early boarding, and flight attendants close bins before letting non-carry-on fee customers board. The fee has increased the amount of baggage that gets checked, but that's what Spirit wanted. Customers still get the space under the seat in front of them at no charge.
And would someone please out those members of Congress who need to take a course in principles of microeconomics?
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