What If Airlines Paid You To Check Your Bags?

In February, I took a trip to California. At the last minute, I scored what I thought was a good deal on a ticket from Reagan National Airport to San Francisco. By the time I set foot in the Golden State, though, I'd paid a lot more. Extra money to check a bag. And more extra money to sit in an aisle seat. Annoying.

A few weeks ago, I flew to Louisville, Kentucky, to visit my friend. Because it was a weekend trip, I packed lightly, so I didn't need to check any luggage. But I noticed something curious: Boarding the plane took an inordinately long time. Everyone seemed to be having trouble getting his baggage into the overhead bin. And why? Because the rolling suitcases and duffel bags seemed bigger than usual, packed to capacity.

If it costs $20 or $25 to check your bag, as I learned on my earlier flight to California, why not try cramming tons of stuff into a carry-on bag? After all, once you get through security and on the plane, if you can't find space for it in the overhead bins, a flight attendant is bound to offer to check it "plane-side" — for free.

Felix Salmon, a blogger for Reuters, linked to a really interesting post by Eric Joiner, Jr., who writes at Freight Dawg. He heaps praise on Southwest Airlines for continuing to offer to check bags for free. Then he makes this modest proposal:

What if an air carrier said ... rather than charge you a fee to check a bag, they would PAY you to do so? Maybe not in cash, but in additional frequent flyer mileage or another perk? What if that same airline also said that they would enable you to track your bags enroute so that you KNEW that your bag was on the same airplane you were on, that the bag also made your connection and that the bag finally was enroute to the bag carousel at the destination. And what if all that was sent to your cell phone, PDA, Blackberry or whatever.

Interesting... Joiner continues:

I think what would happen is that customers would immediately start to check luggage and flight turn times would improve measurably. Enough to avoid government imposed fines for late departures as well as save millions in fuel costs.

What do you think? Is it something you'd buy into?

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