Human Events Blog

Your Senate Tackles The Important Issues, Like Airline Baggage Fees

The Democrat-controlled Senate doesn’t waste its time on trivia, such as passing a budget for the titanic federal government.  (In case you haven’t been keeping score, it has now been 938 days since the Senate’s last budget.)  No, they’re focused on their vital Constitutional duties, such as telling airlines how much they can charge for tickets.

Fox News brings us word of the latest triumph for economic liberty and limited government:

Airlines would no longer be allowed to charge passengers for their first checked bag under a bill being introduced in Congress ahead of the holiday travel season. 

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., announced the legislation Tuesday, describing it as way spare passengers from “unfair fees” while encouraging them to ease up a bit on the carry-on bags. 

“Air travel can be a stressful experience for many reasons, but unfair fees for basic amenities should not be one of them,” Landrieu said in a statement. “Passengers have been nickeled and dimed for far too long and something has to be done about it.” 

And we all know the Founding Fathers were keen to give the federal government limitless power over private commerce, in order to protect citizens from “stressful experiences.”

Landrieu would compel airlines to allow one checked bag and one carry-on bag free of charge.  The probable consequences of such heavy-handed legislation should be obvious to anyone who understands the first thing about price controls, and isn’t a desperate politician bent on shredding Constitutional liberty in the course of a little populist pandering:

Steve Lott, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, said banning baggage fees would actually be less fair to customers, as it could result in higher ticket costs that all passengers would bear as opposed to just those who are checking bags. 

“Most in Congress understand that the airline industry was deregulated more than 30 years ago and the government should not mandate what products and services a deregulated industry should offer customers,” Lott said. 

The industry started charging for checked bags to deal with rising jet fuel costs and a weak economy. According to industry estimates released this month, the average price of a gallon of jet fuel rose from just over $1 between 2001 and 2005 to more than $3 in late 2011. According to the Air Transport Association, airfare alone does not cover the operating cost of a flight. 

Lott questioned why Congress would target the kind of fee systems that are “common practice” in other industries. 

“You don’t get one free Coke at your hotel when you check in,” Lott told FoxNews.com. 

Forcing airlines to provide “free” checked baggage will have the inevitable result of jacking up ticket prices across the board, thereby soaking people who fly on short trips with only carry-on luggage.  Look at it this way: there’s nothing preventing airlines from doing this on their own volition, right now.  If travelers were really so desperate to escape from the “stress” of baggage fees, why hasn’t a big airline hiked its overall prices and started offering “free” checked luggage, to scoop up all those stressed-out carry-on pack mules?

As usual, there’s another agenda at work here: hiding the enormous cost of the Transportation Security Agency, which is complaining about all the carry-on luggage it has to screen.

A Landrieu aide said the security costs are a top issue the senator is trying to address with the legislation. 

“There’s an increased cost because of this, for security to scan all these bags,” the aide said. 

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Landrieu during a Senate hearing this past March that the extra carry-on bags translate to about $260 million in added security costs. 

A small price to pay for another massive public employee union and Democrat vote farm!  Instead of whining about security screener work loads and dropping yet another regulation upon private industry, why doesn’t the Senate try soliciting some bids to privatize the TSA, and see if any lean and hungry private companies can handle all those carry-on bags for less than $260 million?  


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