Reacting to the public’s irritation (as politicians are wont to do), Senator Charles Schumer and others started making noises about legislation to limit convenience fees that airlines may charge. Several other airlines, in response, pledged not to start charging for carry-on bags (at least in the short term).
Now, there’s an urban myth that says that if you put a frog into hot water, it’ll jump out, but if you put a frog into cold water and heat it, the frog will stay put, ignoring the changing conditions up to the point of death. (In reality, frogs aren’t that dumb, but that’s beside the point.) Hence the expression that says if you want people to accept changing conditions, you should “cook the frog slowly.”
So here’s my perspective. I’m not a frequent flier. I probably average no more than one or two flights a year, the most recent one being last August. So—like the frog dumped into hot water—I may be more likely than people who fly all the time to notice changes that have occurred over time. On my last several trips, I’ve noticed that it takes a long, long time these days to get on and off a plane. Also, if you’re not among the first to board, the overhead bins will already be stuffed to capacity.
It’s only human nature to push our limits. If we weren’t like that, we certainly would never have planted flags at the North or South Poles, much less on the moon. So when airlines started charging for checked bags, passengers naturally started cramming as much as possible into carry-ons and carrying more accessories. Whereas boarding passengers used to toss their duffel into the overhead and sit down, they now have to
- Stow the duffel
- Get the computer out and stow the bag
- Find places to tuck any of the special-needs items that airlines usually allow as a courtesy (diaper bags, strollers, crutches, etc.)
- Strip off four layers of clothes and stuff them in the overhead compartment
- Stick the handbag or purse under the seat
- Stash hand-held items, such as books, magazines, and cell phones, into the compartment on the seat in front.
All this takes time, while people downstream stop and stand, stop and stand. People sitting on the aisle are battered by the edges of things as newly arriving passengers clamor down the aisle, bristling with all these appendages.
It simply takes much longer to board or deplane than it used to—and the whole process can be annoying as hell.
Questioned about his airline’s new policy, Spirit president Ben Baldanza was unapologetic about being “the Wal-Mart or the McDonald's—not the Nordstrom's—of the airline industry.” He observed that under the new policy, passengers who choose not to carry a bag on board won’t be paying a surcharge for those who do.
Makes sense to me. And for those who don’t like it, there are other airlines and other modes of transportation.