My initial reaction to United's new baggage surcharge, posted here, had a decidedly economic slant to it. Which makes sense, given that added fees can't help but have an economic impact on consumers.
But a note from reader Marjie added a new dimension to my thinking about United's move: safety. As Marjie notes, "Already, passengers carry on oversized, overweight luggage which violates standards. I have yet to see anyone stopped/told to check in the huge pieces of luggage, guitars, skis, luggage disguised as 'purses,' etc. My fear is that with the new reg, even more passengers will stuff even more into an ostensibly carry on piece of luggage."
Indeed, charging more for multiple checked bags will create extra incentive for flyers to carry on luggage they would have checked otherwise. And I don't foresee United suddenly enforcing their own carry-on restrictions. So Marjie's fears of an impending Baggage Hell are well founded.
Judging by the content and tenor of her note, Marjie is doing her part to stem the tide of carry-it-all-on madness, to no avail: "I have expressed my dissatisfaction with the lack of concern in enforcing luggage weight and size by check-in personnel to the airlines. They do not respond."
Marjie's note ends with a plea for help: "How can we encourage/force airlines to enforce the regs they already have??? How can we prevent passengers from super OVER stuffing their luggage in response to this new charge????"
If there were a simple solution, the problem would have been solved. What I can do in my role as an industry analyst and commentator is to give the issue an airing in this column, in the hope that it will help stimulate awareness and discussion.
What we can all do, as customers of United, is voice our discontent with the lose-lose situation United has created: flyers who check multiple bags are punished with extra fees; the rest of us are punished when they carry them on instead.