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Bill would limit airline luggage fees

Are you heading to the airport this Thanksgiving holiday?

If you're like many passengers, you've probably crammed your travel needs into a couple of bags to carry onto the plane with you instead of checking them.

Airplane overhead storage_sjlocke via riStock_000013027212XSmall        Photo by sjlocke via iStock

The main motivation for keeping your stuff close used to be fear of the airline losing your suitcases.

Now people over stuff everything into a couple of carry-on bags because they don't want to pay to check their luggage.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, has a legislative solution to the carry-on bags problem, which she says not only is a passenger irritant, but also slows down airport security check points.

Landrieu wants to limit the fees that airlines can charge for checked bags.

The Airline Passenger BASICS, or Basic Airline Standards to Improve Customer Satisfaction, Act would require airlines to allow passengers one checked and one carry-on bag for free.

To ensure that airlines comply, Landrieu also plans to introduce the Fair Airline Industry Revenue (FAIR) Act, which would impose additional fees on airlines that insist on charging passengers for baggage.

"Many airlines consider checking a bag not to be a right, but a privilege - and one with a hefty fee attached. The Airline Passenger BASICS Act will guarantee passengers one checked bag without the financial burden of paying a fee, or the headache of trying to fit everything into a carry-on," said Landrieu in a statement announcing her legislation.

The costs of carry-ons: In 2008 and 2009, airlines collected $4 billion in change/cancellation fees and $3.9 billion in checked baggage fees, according to Landrieu's office.

On the security side, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano earlier this year told the Subcommittee on Homeland Security (which just happens to be chaired by Landrieu) that  bag check fees have increased Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening costs by $260 million a year. 

So while some folks are escaping the baggage fees, all of us are paying for the TSA costs that carry-ons create.

And there's more than just a financial cost.

In a recent survey released by the U.S. Travel Association, more than 72 percent of respondents said that the increased volume of carry-on bags is one of their top frustrations when flying.

Take away airlines baggage tax breaks: While I am among those who get royally irked at fellow passengers who lug giant bags onto the plane, I'm not sure that forcing airlines to offer free bag passage is the right route.

Each carrier should be able to make business decisions and then let the passengers choose.

Plus, I love all those commercials by Southwest, where bags fly free, that poke fun at their competitors' baggage fees.

Instead, Congress should take away the tax break that airlines get in connection with all that bag income.

That's right. While we're paying more to have our luggage fly in the cargo hold, airlines don't have to pay any excise taxes on those very profitable bag fees.

Such a bag tax, collected from the airlines, not passengers, was introduced previously, but it went nowhere. Maybe it's time to reintroduce that bill.

If we're going to have to pay to get our stuff to the same destination, then the carriers should, too.

Maybe then more of them would reconsider the added baggage charges.

Travel tips: Whether you're flying the not so friendly anymore skies of taking the traditional over the river and through the woods land route to grandma's or other destinations this holiday, there are websites that can help make your travel a bit easier.

The Federal Aviation Administration tracks airport delays.

The TSA has a reminder about airplane carry-on rules, as well as maintains a list of items you can't bring on a flight.

Fellow blogger and Tourism Currents travel guru Sheila Scarborough shares her husband's one-bag packing tips.

The Federal Highway Administration keeps tabs on traffic and road closure information across the country.

And if you're looking for the cheapest gas, check out MSN Auto's interactive map or Gas Buddy.

Here's wishing everyone a safe trip, good food, great weather and lots of friends and family to celebrate with this Thanksgiving!

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Sheila Scarborough

Thanks for the shout-out and link to my packing tips.

Shoes are the main culprit when it comes to overpacking; most people take too many. One black, one brown, one to wear on the plane, and you're done. Match them with black trousers, brown trousers, one pair for the plane and about 4-5 tops (rolled) and you can live out of a carry-on, no problem.

M Berry

I don't agree with the airlines charging people to check their baggage. But if they aren't allowed to charge fees from checked baggage they will think of another way to stiff their customers.


I feel like when I read stories like this that we literally have idiots in Congress. What do you think is going to happen when you take $3,900,000,000 from the airlines? That they are going to roll over and just take it?!

They'll just relabel the fee and ALL ticket prices will increase. It is like no one can even give any consideration to the fact that there may be unintended consequences.

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