Carry-On Guide for Misinformed Senators

Baggage, Spirit

Wondering why I’m posting on a Sunday? Well, it’s to welcome Washington Post readers to the site. See, Sunday Posttoday I had an opinion piece in the Post entitled Don’t let bag fees make you nostalgic. Airlines’ golden age wasn’t so golden. What spurred this article? Spirit’s carry-on fee, of course. But that was a broader piece on the industry, so I thought I’d bring it over here for a little more discussion.

The backlash on this carry-on fee has been heated, to say the least, but the hottest air of all is coming from the US Senate, and it’s ridiculous. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) led off the insanity by saying this was horrible, and now he has joined with six other senators to introduce the BAG Fees Act. Reading through their release, they clearly haven’t actually looked at Spirit’s fee.

For example, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) had this to say:

Carry-on luggage is where people keep items essential to their health, work, and safety like laptop computers, medications, food to eat on the plane, baby formula, eye glasses and other items that need to be kept close at hand. These are personal items that airline passengers should not be charged to keep with them in the cabin.

Thanks for playing, Senator, but everything you mentioned there remains free on Spirit. The airline is still allowing a personal item (like a purse, briefcase, etc) and things like diaper bags are free too. So, to help senators from embarrassing further, I’ve put together this handy guide:

Cranky Guide for Senators on Spirit's Carry On Fee

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25 comments on “Carry-On Guide for Misinformed Senators

  1. Brett, very funny and it made a point! But alas, in your food vs. In-and-Out comparison (make mine a double double animal style please, burn the fries) both milk and yogurt are considered liquids and won’t make it past TSA.
    If you haven’t ditched the Laphroag before your date with TSA, I’ll hang on to it for you. Really.

    1. Well, just pretend those milk and yogurt cartons are less than 3 oz or that you bought them past security. *sigh*

      And yes, the Laphroaig is my favorite so I definitely won’t be trying to bring that through security.

  2. Hey Cranky,
    I think YOU should do a comparison chart on Spirit’s WALK UP FARES and several OTHER AIRLINES on a random route and show how that carry on fee is STILL A VALUE.

    1. Yeah, that would have been a good idea for this. You know, sometimes they’ll be cheaper and sometimes they won’t. If we could just have an easy way to compare apples to apples, that would help tremendously.

  3. The chief culprit in this “crisis” is the advertising and price comparisons that are posted to the world wide web. A shift on one percent in ticket sales caused by a lower advertised price can cause millions of dollars in revenues to shift from one airline to another. Therefore the common sense change in policy that is called for is that all prices be advertised with their components:
    Fare: $xxx
    Security fee yy
    Baggage fee zz
    Taxes TT
    Total cost$X+Y+Z+T
    Then we can make true comparisons and screw the airlines.s

  4. If you have not yet done it, EVERYONE needs to visit the Ryan Air web site ( Click on Ryanair Fees in the small print at the top and be prepared to be AMAZED at the fees.

    Then notice the price of tickets! 6 Pounds.. WOW. Its a toss up.

  5. The saddest thing about all this is the fact that, with all the major problems we have, a U.S. Senator has nothing better to do than to worry about carry on fees. Must be more important than the deficit, health care, the economy, etc. It’s a private business. If they want to charge for carry on let them. Passengers and the market will decide if it is accepted. Southwest decided not to charge for checked luggage and they are cleaning up. Politicians – butt out.

  6. Should be interesting how all this turns out. But when you really think about it, that underseat space can fit your personal carryon with your travel documents, meds, laptops, camera, etc, things that are important to you. And if you travel like me, it can fit my carry on with all my stuff I’m taking. When I travel I don’t need to use the overhead, but I have.

    The issue is if people would stop using those roll on bags because they are to lazy to carry a bag in their hand or over their shoulder. Granted there are people with phyiscal needs who need a rolling bag, but just look around the airport and most do not. Those bulky bags are taking up the space and causing issues. Use soft sided duffel type bags and they will fit under the seat and you can get more of those bags in the overhead bins then those rolling ones.

    1. I’m traveling for a week of camping and hiking, and without any checking bags. A stiff-sided zipping roll-on bag squeezes as much stuff into it as two billowing soft bag would. Soft-sided duffels are bulky and take up more room.

  7. Who is this Cranky guy? First the best blog, now bucking for a Pulitzer.

    Oh, I remember back when…just a geek spending his simple life collecting timetables! But no, off to French Polynesia. A flight here and there, in premium class no less, to some exotic country way down there. And now, in the mainstream media, writing stories daring to put our elected officials in something other than the highest regard. Servants, just trying to protect us peasants on matters aviation, and who no doubt will be introducing legisation soon to outlaw, or at least better regulate, volcanic eruptions so as not to cause us these awful travel delays. What next will this Cranky guy sink to?

    Anyway, I did enjoy your piece in “Outlook,” B4, above the fold no less!

  8. As a too-frequent-for-my-own-good flier, I completely agree with you about being able to buy tickets in a way that compares fees. I don’t mind the existence of the fees – it bothers me that they’re snuck in, and for a while it wasn’t clear who was charging a fee and who wasn’t when you bought a ticket. And some airlines changed the rules after I’d bought a ticket. It just needs to be transparent. I’ll be happy if I don’t feel like I’ve been cheated.

    But I do wish the airlines had thought through the consequences of their fees. The fee for checked bags without charging a fee for carry-ons has led to a disaster. I’ve been on flights where connections were tight and I was coming from a foreign country (therefore had no USD) but still had to pay for food in cash. I think if the airlines talked to (and listened to) their employees who work directly with customers, they’d be run a lot better.

  9. This article seems to be missing “a middle.” As someone who worked for the airlines in the mid-80s, I can tell you those WERE the good old days. Hot entrees were served in coach class, which wasn’t mentioned in your article. While some complained about it, it sure was better than what you pay a high price for onboard now. Also, security pre-9/11/01 wasn’t anything like it is now – it was a non-sequiter to flying; now that’s one of the biggest hassles of flying. I also remember how much more courteous and genuinely friendly the flight attendants were – you could tell they really liked their jobs. Now, you get treated like you’re “inconveniencing” them just by being onboard! And there was no over-selling of flights like there is now. Give me the good old 80s flying anyday!

    1. Yeahhhh, give me the eighties, too. I had a pension back then. Now? The PBGC has it. Hot meals? We worked our tails off, but our perspective companies STAFFED the planes well. Nowadays, you’re lucky if you see three F/A’s onboard for close to 200 passengers. Back then, six F/A’s.
      Speaking of courteous and friendly, how many times do F/A’s need to ask you to turn OFF your electronic devices???? It’s announced SEVERAL TIMES. Then apparently, you’re in a HUFF when the flight attendant has to personally confront you and individually ask you to TURN IT OFF. We hear YEP and GIMME, all day long.
      And, speaking of treatment, you’d be surprised that passengers blame the F/A for lack of overhead space. I’ve had a bag thrown at my feet. I’ve had people stroll their bag up to me and say, “find a place, would ya?” and walk away.
      Everyone complains about customer service, I’d like to know where passenger decorum is.

  10. Great article CF. I think it is always good to dispel this myth of the bygone era of aviation. In those good old days, traveling was for the privileged few, choice was limited and getting anywhere long-haul was an arduous experience. The world has changed as have the economics of running an airline. I don’t like bag fees but as a well informed consumer I check out the policies of airlines when I am making my choices. I agree with you there needs to be more transparency for those that are not so well-informed.

  11. Cranky
    A question I have on the Spirit carry on policy is what about the people that end up in the bulkhead seats? There is no under seat room for them because they are at the bulkhead. Will they always have to pay the carry on charge since they will always need to use the overhead bins or will Spirit label it as a “privilege” charge since they get the extra leg room?

    1. I believe the policy doesn’t actually forbid you from using the overhead bin, because the policing happens upon boarding not on the aircraft. It just has to be small enough to fit under the seat – I imagine bulkheads will be fine.

  12. I can top all your carry on stories. On a BA flight about 4 weeks ago ( A 777) the flight attendant scolded me for bringing a carry-on while being “short” and asking for assistance. I had asked for this tall guy’s assistance to put a bag up in the overhead bin since I could not reach the bin on the 777!

  13. Good article. I’ve been a very frequent traveler since the 80s, and, personally, I don’t think the “Golden age” was the peak of American flying: I distinctly remember pre-dereg airline flying, and it generally got more convenient and a lot cheaper after that. If I had to pick my own candidates for some of the best times of American passenger aviation, I’d have to pick the early 80s (when the frequent flyer programs started to come out, they were *very* generous early on), and the late 90s (when non-travelers could still get to the gate area, we didn’t have the nickel-and-diming, and we didn’t have nearly the security issues of today).

    On the other hand, I can’t really complain that much, since while air travel isn’t nearly as convenient as it was a decade ago, it’s still cheap, and people forget how cheap it is, especially compared to inflation. Heck, I’ve frequently gone on recreational trips to Washington, DC, since I can, with almost no advance purchase, get WN tickets from BWI to MHT for $138 RT.

    Finally, regarding the guide to carryons? No, you can’t take your bottle of liquor. But you *can* take a quart bag filled with, well, those little 50ml airline bottles. I’ve done that a few times, actually (and handing out a bunch of $1.25 bottles to your fellow passengers makes you even more popular than handing out drink coupons…)

  14. Regardless of what certain senators believe, carry-on bag fees are completely unacceptable. Aside from the brashness of it, people will be trying to stuff too-large bags under seats (which can dislodge life-vests), and the added hassle factor of determining what fits and won’t is just plain ridiculous. Just like the old Alaska Airlines television advertisement of a guy running up and down the aisle looking for a quarter to use the lavatory, that’s no longer a joke. I really hope, and I reason to believe, that my employer won’t be this stupid.

  15. I have no problem with an airline charging a carry-on bag fee; that seems like the kind of issue the market should resolve. Where I do have a problem, though, is with a tax structure that encourages carriers to add such junk fees.

    For instance, suppose a carrier has a $100 fare and doesn’t charge for carry-ons or checked bags. The airline gets its $100, and thanks to the 7.5 percent federal excise tax on aviation, the airline owes the government $7.50.

    Now suppose the carrier drops its fare to $50 while imposing a $50 fee for checked bags or carry-ons. Since exceedingly few travelers can fly without either a checked bag or an overhead-sized carry-on, the airline can expect that it will still get $100 from the overwhelming majority of customers, but it only has to pay the government $3.75, since the 7.5 percent excise tax applies to fares — not incidental services like baggage fees.

    As a result, the airline that charges a customer a total price of $100 (broken into a $50 fare plus a $50 bag fee) keeps more money than the airline that charges a customer the same $100 (set as a fare that includes free bag service). That’s a sign that the system is broken.

  16. The point that most people are missing is that the charge for carry-on bagws is hardly new. I know that for at least 20 years, Philippine airlines has had a very stiff fee (upwards of $100) for carry-ons beyond the free allowance.

    This week I am taking an EVA flight to Asia, and they have very strict rules on the size and weight of the single carryon (15 pounds max).

    If the US airlines want to clearly define the max size and weight of a carry-on, and then charge through the roof for any additionals, then that is fine with me. the problem is that there are people who are bringing half of their personal belongings into the cabin, hogging the bins, and greatly slowing the boarding process.

    Alternatively, the airlines could begin a new boarding process:
    1. pax with no hand carries board first.
    2. pax with one small handcarry that weighs less than 15 pounds.
    3. pax with 2 small handcarry
    4. pax with 3 handcarry
    5. pax with more.
    also and hand carries that do not fit in the bins or under the seat have to remain in your lap for the duration of the flight. :)

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