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Senators Offer Bill That Would Ban Carry-on Fees

The Washington Times reports that senators Benjamin Cardin of Maryland and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana have sponsored a bill that would ban airlines from charging carry-on fees. The senators said carry-on bags should be off-limits from fees, because many travelers bring medicine, eyeglasses, and other essentials onboard.

In a statement, Senator Cardin said, “At this point, only one airline has announced plans to charge for carry-on item fees, but we cannot allow these floodgates to open.”

While the spirit and possible impact of the bill will probably make consumers happy, the logic of it is a bit flawed. Spirit’s carry-on policy quite clearly allows passengers to bring backpacks and other small bags onboard—basically anything that can fit under the seat. Presumably these would be adequate for the sort of essential items Senators Landrieu and Cardin have in mind.

But the bill misses the point: The backlash against Spirit’s fee isn’t about eyeglasses, but rather an industrywide shift toward nickel-and-diming, with largely powerless consumers caught in the middle. The government has lately tried to rein in the airlines through fines and rules, but even the most well-intended efforts sometimes cause more problems than they solve.

And sure, we can choose a more customer friendly airline, and most of us do. But it’s not that simple, is it? One thing Cardin got correct is his observation that “we cannot allow these floodgates to open.” You can vote with your wallet, but what difference does it make when all the candidates are the same?

Readers, do you think the bill is a good idea, or is it just another case of politicians sticking their noses where they don’t belong?

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