Should the government really get involved with carry-on bag regulations?

When he’s not busy calling flight attendants bitches because they want him to follow the federally mandated regulations, Senator Chuck Schumer seems to be on a crusade to stop fees for carry-on bags. Part of the reason for this seems to be that airlines like Spirit are basically getting a tax “break,” because they’re not taxed on items that aren’t a “necessary” part of air travel. Fine, declare it a necessary part of air travel, but that won’t stop the airlines, at least in theory.

But instead of legislation, Senator Schumer is going around asking for a pledge from the airlines not to charge for carry-on bags. Now, I don’t know about you guys, but this sounds to me like a “pledge” that’s as significant as the one you make in your high school cafeteria not to ever drink or do drugs, mostly so you can get that nifty free pen you get for signing. Or for that matter, it sounds about as sincere as Briston Palin’s pledge of abstinence till marriage.

Let me be clear, I don’t want airlines to charge for carry-on bags, but not because it shouldn’t be allowed. I just don’t think it’s a smart business decision. And Chuck Schumer is obviously doing all of this to look like the good guy. There’s just no substance behind what he’s saying.

“I am pleased some of the major carriers have responded to our efforts and have agreed not to charge for something that has always been free.”

And how exactly do you decide what should or shouldn’t be charged for? The airlines didn’t used to charge for checked bags. Or standby. Or snacks. Or pillows. Or blankets. Or headsets. Or aisle seats. Or… well, you get the point.

Either way, I don’t see any other airlines matching. And if they did, some stupid pledge isn’t going to change that. I guess my main issue is that Continental and Southwest are absent from the list of airlines that have “pledged.” They’re basically being painted as the bad guys, when I’m betting they have no intention of charging for carry-on bags.

Filed Under: Media
  1. The airlines are NOT getting a tax break on these baggage fees.

    They aren’t paying the airline ticket EXCISE TAX.

    But they pay corporate income tax on the same basis as any other company. Take whatever position you like on the corporate income tax, nad of course you usually have to make money before you pay it.

    But there’s no special tax break. The charges are just not subject to the special excise tax that’s unique to their product that other companies don’t have to pay.

  2. Liberalism at its finest…

    Oh, come on. Pandering and demogoguing know no ideology. It’s what countless elected officials everywhere reflexively just *do*.

    Great post, Lucky.

  3. re: Senator Schumer. The Senator makes headlines and the flying public wins. I’m sorry, but I don’t see where there’s a negative here. We all know Spirit is a joke. If other airlines were to start collecting this fee too, we’d all be up in arms! Senator Schumer comes along, and sort of forces the airlines hand, and now 5 airlines announce no carry on bag fees!
    We should be showing the love here folks. Thank you Senator.

  4. @ GoAmtrak:

    My point is that the idea of government increasing its regulation of the free market is a liberal philosophy. Of course we expect congressmen to try and score political points, that’s to be expected. But the government doesn’t need to get involved here…let the free market work itself out and let consumers make the decision.

  5. But the government doesn’t need to get involved here…let the free market work itself out and let consumers make the decision.

    I couldn’t agree more. Pardon my getting defensive; it’s just that most “big picture liberals” would not count Sen. Schumer as one of them, but rather as merely another populist dingus. 🙂

  6. I don’t understand the hate here. If he had worked on legislation against charging for carry-ons it would be one thing. By doing it as a pledge, there’s no government interference. It’s no different than if some super high profile celebrity got them to make the pledge. If Mitch McConnell had gotten them to take a pledge I’d still think McConnell is an idiot, but I’d be happy with the result.

  7. Let me define my position a little more, too…I don’t have anything against the “pledge” either. I agree with Lucky, it pretty harmless. Any sort of legislation to flat-out ban it, or legislation to attach a financial penalty to it, is not in the best interest of the free market.

    And GoAmtrak, I appreciate the explanation, no hard feelings.

  8. @Blandon – a lot of the hate is just because it’s Schumer, who is one of the most incredibly annoying members of the Senate, a total pompous ass who thinks he knows all there is to know about the airline industry. Can’t stand the man. That said, in this case at least it’s just a pledge, not damaging legislation or regulations.

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