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Study: Baggage Fees Help with On-Time Performance

SmarterTravel

Baggage fees are the airline surcharge that most fliers love to hate, but a new study shows that they have an unexpected silver lining: They’ve made it more likely for your flight to leave on time.

The study comes from the University of Kansas, where researchers discovered that the implementation of baggage fees encouraged fliers to check fewer bags, allowing baggage handlers to load planes more efficiently. Of course, it now seems to take longer for passengers to board, given that we’re all trying to find overhead bin space for our massive carry-ons, but this is apparently outweighed by the time saved on checked baggage. Says a University of Kansas researcher, “The below-the-cabin effect dominates the above-the-cabin effect.”

The time savings weren’t huge — the median departure time improved anywhere from 3.3 to 4.2 minutes, and delays went down 1.3 to 2 minutes — but they benefited all major airlines, including Southwest (which doesn’t charge for checked bags). The researchers note that some baggage handling responsibilities such as security checks are shared among all airlines, so the reduction in total checked luggage improved performance for everyone.

The biggest improvements in on-time performance came at large hub airports where layovers are common; fewer bags going through such massive handling systems led to fewer delays.

In other positive news, luggage-related complaints per 1,000 passengers have fallen since baggage fees were first implemented.

Do these findings make you feel any more kindly toward checked baggage fees?

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