Airline Safety: Subsidize Checked Bags

Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

tsaQuepos In the wake of the attempted blowup of an international flight into Detroit, TSA is instituting new rules, including many that will catch travelers unprepared as they return from the holidays.  It goes without saying that airline and passenger safety is a tantamount concern.  As a frequent flier, I also have to quickly add that it is almost unbelievable how much the air travel  experience has been degraded!

The worst news creeping out from foreign airlines given the fact that the Department of Homeland Security and its Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) subsidiary, which does the airport screening, is that all travelers may be limited to one (1) carry-on.  Kill me, now!

Such a policy will force all business travelers to be required to check-in bags, and airlines are simply unprepared to handle the increasing load with any efficiency whatsoever.  Frankly, as all travelers know, this has never been much of a priority with airlines.  It’s an after-market add-on.  The airline collected their money for the flight and delivered the value when the plane safely touched ground.  The question of how much time it may take the traveler once they have landed to collect their gear and get out of the airport seems a begrudging irrelevance to most airlines.  A semi-service for which they garnered no revenue.

Recently, airline surcharges for baggage have gone out of control by tacking on an extra $20,  $25, or $30 for any bag checked.  For the random, occasional traveler and of course anyone who is limited to a budget, this has meant implicitly forcing passengers to try to drag everything possible  onto the airline, where the bins and planes are already smaller.  The government has already been arguing that this was a case of an extra charge implicit in the ticket that the airline was using to escape taxation, and of course the government was correct and the airlines are ailing, so everyone is looking the other way.  For now!

I think there is going to be a business traveler revolt on being held to one carry-on, and that there should be!  There needs to be a way to separate out “regular” frequently screened travelers from “profile” travelers, especially on domestic flights.  And, this is already happening, just not honestly.  I have been pulled into separate lines in places because I “looked” like an experienced traveler, so the lines could be sped up.  My marking was usually only the fact that I was wearing a sport coat.

Here’s what we need to do.  First, we need to spend a little security money and subsidize the airlines temporarily to encourage more bags to be checked.  Secondly, before the conservatives whine we have to understand that such a per bag subsidy would save money because it will prevent the added costs of individually checking carry-ons by hand, which will happen so that people can carry-on two bags.  Thirdly, TSA finally needs a real was to allow frequent travelers to earn a way into faster lines and more efficient carry-on systems.  And, fourthly, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is finally going to have to force real investments by airports and airlines in efficient baggage handling, if safety and speed are going to have meaning.

Right now we have a prescription for nothing but unhappiness and discontent.  The feds are allowing regulated airlines to incentivize passengers to carry-on bags even recognizing that this slows screening and compromises safety, while not even collecting tariffs for the surcharges.  We need to put money where it counts for safety.  We need to incentivize passengers to check bags, create a system for business travelers that works and is equitable, and where possible create point of landing bag pickup and swift service on the back end of the airline experience.

Doing nothing means less money as fewer people fly as part of business and pleasure.   Safety is important, but let’s keep it real!