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sir, you have entirely too much baggage
either pack your therapist or learn to pack light.
by maigen thomas (@Maigen)
pop culture

On a recent transcontinental flight, in between offering First Class a pre-departure beverage and greeting the shuffling masses, I had to keep one eye open for people and their drama. I mean baggage.

I shouldn't have to be the Bag Nazi. I'd much rather be nice to you, I truly would. It gives me wrinkles when I have to frown at you, admonish you, tell you to turn your phone off for the seventh time, ask you to please bring your seat up, request that you please hurry up and step out of the aisle, etc. I'd like to avoid that additional early aging if I could.

But the bag situation, well, it's getting out of hand.

"Two" means two. Not three. Not two and a half. Not two and that enormous pillow you think isn't a carry on.

Every flight goes the same way. Every passenger is 'entitled' (a word I am coming to despise) to bring on one piece of carry on luggage and one personal item. Somehow, though, between booking the flight and boarding the plane, that Personal Item becomes something much larger in nature than a purse or a briefcase. When I question it, the answer is always quickly offered: "It's a personal item." No, sir, that's a second suitcase. Two huge duffel bags also does not count. You know the rules. I know the rules. Why must you attempt to flout them?

It's not that I want to single you out or make your flying experience anything less than it already is. It's that you're being a selfish bastard and if I let YOU get away with putting both of your suitcases in the overhead bin, then I have to let the next person do it, or it's discrimination. And then the next guy. And the next. Then the last fifty people on a flight don't get to bring anything on at all. While YOU get to sail off the aircraft at our destination without a care, these people have to wait for their luggage at baggage claim.

I may have previously mentioned this, but size DOES matter.

When did we stop using those handy "Does Your Luggage Fit In Here?" racks? They're positioned by the check in counters, but I've never once witnessed anyone use them, nor have I seen the check in agents request anyone measure the size of their luggage. Don't even dream about telling me "It fit on the last plane." because the only "last plane" it could possibly have fit on is the 747 from 1978. No way is that over-stuffed, expansion-unzipped, 24"-upright going to somehow cram into the overhead bin. Get it off my plane and into the jetbridge, please. It will meet you at your final destination.

While waiting on delivery of the final paperwork for a flight the other day, I chatted with a baggage handler who -- in one breath -- complained about the weight of the carry-on bags we weren't able to fit on board, then mentioned how he over-packed for a two day visit to New York, packing six pairs of shoes, seven pairs of pants and twenty shirts. "Just in case I needed an extra outfit or two."

Side note -- It's when everyone on a flight packs similarly that we start to run into baggage issues.

The ______ are too ______."

"The baggage fees are too high. The rules and restrictions are too hard to understand. The right information is too hard to find. The rules are arbitrary. They vary wildly from airline to airline. They're meant to disguise the real cost of the ticket."

First of all, none of this is rocket science. No one is asking you to compute any really complicated equations. The problem we seem to be dealing with here, collectively, is that people seem to need hand-holding. This is ridiculous.

You're a grown up, so start acting like one. READ the rules and regulations before clicking "I Agree". This is a starting point. They are pretty much standard across the board for airlines, because we're regulated by the Department of Transportation as well as the Airline Transport Association. Penalties are pretty severe for infractions, and by "penalties" I mean "fees" in the thousands of dollars.

There are something like 30+ North American airlines. There are the ten majors, and there are regional airlines. You, as a consumer, have choices. You, as a consumer, should RESEARCH those options and make the best choice that suits YOUR needs. That is exactly how a market economy works. The way a market economy *doesn't* work is when the government determines how much every company can charge for services offered -- such as priority boarding and baggage handling. THAT, my friends, is called Communism.

In April of 2011, the Department of Transportation made a number of changes in previous long-standing rules all commercial airlines must adhere to. These rules are fairly strict and pretty much the opposite of arbitrary. One of those changes was fee transparency. One of the ways in which airlines practice fee transparency and still try to give the customers what they've asked for is to unbundle services. Fares are lower when passengers choose less 'frills'. You just want to get from Palm Beach to Palm Springs? Awesome. We can do that. But then you want to board first. And you want extra leg room. And there's cocktails to be had. And you brought ALL of your golfing outfits.

That's going to cost you. Why does this surprise anyone?

In one of the many USA Today articles about fees and fliers, a passenger suggested that airlines simplify and eliminate fees. "Just add them to ticket prices."

Yeah. And then there will be another article quoting ten more passengers about being forced to pay for services they don't use. Unbundling has made more people happy than it hasn't, but that won't stop the truly disgruntled from continuing to be disgruntled.

The bottom line is the Bottom Line

Baggage fees used to be low because luggage needs were low. Taxes imposed by the government were lower. Fuel was cheap and plentiful. Air travel was exclusive, expensive and had limited service areas.

Now, we fly everywhere. Even some of the most remote locations on earth can be reached by air -- and people want to bring the kitchen sink (sometimes literally, I've actually seen one as carry on luggage) with them. We now live in an era where fuel prices are and will remain high (did you know that it takes more fuel to fly a plane full of passengers with luggage than a plane with just passengers?). Cost of living is high and will never again reach the lows enjoyed by previous generations. Taxes are here to stay, and you should probably prepare for them to increase in this century. With all of this information considered common knowledge, does it really come as a surprise that ancillary fees are going to remain? You can't change baggage fees, but you CAN change how you work with them.

You have a choice in airline transportation. You also have a choice about what you pack to bring with you, and what you leave at home. At least one of the fees would be irrelevant if we'd all stop dragging around so much baggage.


Maigen is simple. is smart. is wholesome. is skeevy. is spicy. is delicate. is better. is purer. is 100% more awesome than yesterday. She';s traveling the world and writing about her experiences with life, love, yoga, food, travel and people. Mostly people. Because they';re funny. hear more of her random thoughts @maigen on twitter.

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