In case you missed it, some airlines announced they will charge you $25 if you check more than one bag. No doubt, all airlines will soon follow. Over the past few years some of them have quietly started charging for overweight bags, too. When their planes were flying half-empty they didn't seem to care. Now that the attendants have a hard time finding a seat, things have changed.
I'm not against airlines charging extra for bags. I've seen passengers show up at the airport with seven bags for a weekend trip. Lewis and Clark didn't pack this much luggage. They're not traveling, they're moving. I recently saw a soldier getting ready to travel to a six-month tour in Iraq with just a duffle bag. Standing behind him in line were two parents and a small child on their way to Orlando for a few days. It took two porters to get all their luggage to the check-in. And that's not counting the carry-on toy bag, the sippy cups and snack bag and child seat.
Here's a little travel rule of thumb: If you have so much luggage that you can fill up a U-Haul, rent one! If you really need all that stuff, if you're going to be away from your home for three or four months, why fly? It's not as if you're in a rush. Do everyone a favor and take your car.
Even though the airlines have a point about luggage, you know how these things spin out of control; once the airlines feel comfortable charging for "extra" luggage, they will find other ways to nickel and $25 us to death. How long before some airline floats the idea of a "gangway charge" for walking between the terminal and the plane? Want a seat in the waiting room? Ten bucks. Passengers needing assistance can board first — right after they fork over a $25 wheelchair-rental charge. Charge your laptop? Sure, just show your $15 electrical outlet-usage permit. Want a navigator? That'll be $5.
"Have you heard about our exciting new 'waiting on the tarmac plan?' The longer you wait, the less you pay. Ten dollars for the first hour, nine for the second and so on. The 10th hour is absolutely FREE! Terms and conditions listed below. This offer may not be legal in your state."
"Would you like to know if your flight has been delayed or canceled? Five dollars, please." "Sir, we've just charged you $50 for your overweight luggage, now if you wouldn't mind standing on our scale …"
I'm afraid to say any more, some airline executive may be reading this and I don't want to give them any ideas they don't already have.
Actually, there is one thing they should charge extra for. If it makes sense to charge passengers $25 for extra luggage — luggage that is going to sit in quietly in the luggage compartment not causing any problems, luggage that is not expecting to get a bag of pretzels or a soft drink or wanting to see an in-flight movie — then they should charge for the screaming, crying babies that now fly for free.
Most airlines don't charge for infants too small to sit anywhere but their mother's lap, the theory being they are only using one seat. But infants don't use just one seat. At the minimum, a passenger who travels with an infant should pay for the six seats nearest to them. If the baby's parents can sell the seats to friends and relatives who don't mind the diaper changing and the crying fine, but no way should infants be allowed to fly for free.
And even after they start charging extra for infants, the airlines should limit how many babies there can be on any one flight.
"Whoops! I'm sorry, our Screaming Baby section is full on this flight, we'll see if we can get you on the next flight. Of course, we'll have to charge you a $25 rebooking fee."
Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo." You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org