Want to receive stories like this every day? Subscribe to our free Deal Alert newsletter.
Not only are checked-bag fees taking a bite out of consumers' wallets, but they're pinching the TSA's budget as well. According to the Associated Press (AP), Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano told a Congressional hearing last month that bag fees have led to an increase in carry-ons, which has added some $260 million to the TSA's budget. "When you have to pay to check a bag, it increases carry-on luggage," Napolitano said, "and that means there is more to inspect at the gate and so forth for passengers to get on planes."
Come to think of it, since taxpayers fund the TSA, baggage fees are hitting us twice.
Napolitano said that a proposed increase in passenger facility charges would bring in $500 million, enough to more than cover the additional cost of screening all those carry-ons. But is it fair to expect passengers to pay up for a mess that, indirectly, is the airlines' fault?
Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu asked essentially this exact question: "Checked-bag fees are increasing, it looks like, the cost to TSA because people don't want to pay the fees so they are not checking bags and putting more on the planes," Landrieu said, according to the AP. "My question is, do the taxpayers have to pick up this fee? Or should we be looking at the airlines for some of the profits that they make from these fees to offset the cost to the taxpayer?"
Napolitano, unsurprisingly, sidestepped the question, but I'll offer an answer: Passengers will likely pay for it either way. If the government decided to tax revenue from bag fees, those costs would be passed along to the consumer faster than you can say "3-1-1 rule." Airlines would likely include the cost in the "taxes and fees" portion of your ticket, or, less likely, raise fares a bit to offset the cost.
Needless to say, it shouldn't be this way. That $260 million is as much the airlines' responsibility as it is the consumers'. The bag fees, after all, are what prompted people to start carrying on their bags en masse. Think every traveler who crams a week's worth of clothing into a carry-on wants to? And yet, it will be consumers paying for the budgetary stress caused by a business decision that serves the airlines and the airlines only.
Readers, is there any way to hold the airlines responsible here?