Americans: TSA abuse is fine, just don’t make me pay for my bags!

Yet another article in the mainstream press with people whingeing about the fact that they have to — gasp! — pay a few extra bucks to carry on and/or check their luggage.  

This time, it’s an article in the New York Times about Frontier Airlines. To the NYT’s credit, it points out that passengers are still getting a better deal today than ever before in the history of commercial aviation. But when do Americans let facts get in the way of a good kvetch? People all over the blabbosphere and in the comments at that article are, of course, o-woe-is-me-ing the fact that they have to pony up extra money.

Airlines have found another way to make money: Frontier Airlines is now charging for the privilege of carrying a bag on board. A small “personal item” is still free, but if you need to use the overhead bin, you’ll generally be paying $20 to $50.

Don’t complain too much. Passengers actually are still getting close to the best deal they’ve ever gotten, despite sharp rises in baggage and change fees over the last decade.

In 1979, the first year after airline deregulation, the average pretax domestic round-trip airfare including bag and change fees was $187, which is equivalent to $599 after adjusting for inflation. For the next 26 years, real airfares tumbled; 2005’s average airfare was $332 in 2013 dollars.

Just as there’s a petition making the rounds urging Congress not to pass the euphemistically named Transparent Airfares Act, so, too, is there more outrage over these luggage fees than there is over the TSA. And no, I’m not in favor of the airlines gouging customers; that’s not the point.

Here’s the comment I left at the NYT article (all NYT comments are moderated, so since I just left it, it’s still pending approval):

Lisa Simeone
Baltimore, MD 

Here’s a radical idea — take less stuff. Most Americans carry so much crap when they travel; then they complain when they have to pay a few extra bucks, whether it’s for checked bags or carry-ons.

Regardless, it’s telling that there’s more angst over this nonsense than over the fact that the TSA is an abusive gauntlet. Oh, well, that’s the American way: bully me, harass me, rob me, physically assault me, just don’t make me pay more!

(Photo: Michael Dwyer, AP)

Cross-posted at ABombazine

  • Susan Richart

    BTW, there’s someone who claims to be a former screener who writes this in response to an ABC News article:

    “That’s just it. They have no authority to do that. If someone attacks a
    TSO, TSA procedures says they can’t defend ourselves or leave our post
    till someome relieves us…. then all they can do is tell their
    supervisor. And because of all the negative press, the supervisors have
    to take the passenger’s side over the attacked TSO.
    And having the law
    on their side? The police hate them. So does Customs. The only avenue
    available course of action if attacked is to drop to the floor
    immediately, hope it is caught on camera, and file a police report (on
    their own time, TSA will not be invloved)… Being a TSO is scarier
    than you think.”

    Lisa’s response:

    “Oh, bu11sh1t. TSA clerks assault people all the time. And get away with it.”

    And the clerk’s response to her:

    “And those people are now jobless. Sad thing is, no matter who strikes
    first, the TSO goes home jobless, and the passenger makes their flight.

    I’m sure you are pleased as punch to be on a plane with someone that
    violently lashes out at people.”

    Show of hands if you believe him/her.

    That’s what I thought.

  • Dolt

    Maybe the airlines should just call all bag fees “9/11 security enhancement fees”. Then the apologists would be very torn, wanting to complain, but also wanting to be good book lickers.

    I personally believe it is gouging and the airlines are nickle-and-diming customers out of the ability to fly, but until the majority of Americans actually want to sacrifice a small amount of anything, they will continue to be gouged and taken advantage of. They will all complain, but never act. Home of the brave, land of the free!

  • Ancient Mariner

    Sorry to be off-topic, but here is an opportunity to comment on a TSA/AIT story:

    Please read and comment if you can. Thanks!

    • Daisiemae

      That article is nauseating and packed with lies. Unfortunately, I cannot comment since I am not on Facebook.

    • I’m not on FB either so can’t comment. Luckily, it’s a podunk paper with, probably, a minuscule audience. And yes, it’s full of the usual hype and abject bullshit.

      As for “These so-called ‘Advanced Imaging Technology’ (AIT) machines are a huge waste of of taxpayer money and resources. Their false-positive rate approaches 50%,” the false-positive rate is actually 54%, according to Pro Publica. Tons of references at this blog; folks can do a search.

  • Kitten

    Well, I have not flown since a TS employee slapped me for preventing her from handling my medically required food with the gloves that had just been rooting around in someone’s suitcase. HOWEVER, I would be DELIGHTED to take less stuff, if someone would tell me how to compress the medically required food, the CPAP (and its accessories which happen to be essential to the thing working right, despite being called accessories), and a whole slough of other stuff which is all medically necessary. Not having flown since the CPAP entered my life, I don’t know how much all this might cost me — the CPAP flies free, but not the accessories. But while I can afford to fly, trying to get everything through the TSA gauntlet without stuff ending up contaminated (or me ending up on the floor since the TSA takes my cane away from me) is more trouble than it’s been worth — so for the last ump-grunch years, we’ve driven.

    • Nicko

      Honestly, do some dry runs at home. Or would tinker be a better descriptor? Anyway, see how much you can get into your luggage with your medical appliance food and other travel amenities. Are the CPAP machines about the size of some radio clocks or Dustbuster? I did a search for it and those are the two things it reminded me of based on size. I sympathise with those who have medical needs, and elderly individuals. The blue crusaders singling out the vulnerable makes me sad. The next time Nicko gets told remember 9/11 I’m just going to say oh shove your 9/11 up your ass.

      • Susan Richart

        I just did basically the same thing at the Blog in response to a post. Wish I could have used the phrase “shove your 9/11 up your ass.”

      • Kitten

        I have done “dry runs” at home. Here’s part of the problem: one absolutely does not put one’s CPAP in checked luggage. If you do, your life is literally endangered by baggage handlers who don’t care if they break your machine. (Some people do trust them, but between baggage handlers and TS employees rooting through bags, I won’t consider it.) Second part of the problem: much of what I need to carry food wise has to be placed in three ounce containers, and all those containers take up extra space. (The incident with the hand-slap was because they insisted on searching my food bag because the x-ray person could not tell the difference between a powdered spice mixture and a liquid. I erroneously assumed that the larger jar wouldn’t be a problem because a powder is not a liquid or a gel.) I could cut the weight of my food bag in half if I didn’t need multiple containers! Plus, you have to try and guess if some [email protected] TSE is going to consider a slice of homemade casserole to be a gel. Then there’s things like a heavy-duty surge suppressor, a battery capable of running the machine for 12-16 hours if it’s a trans-oceanic flight, because airlines cannot guarantee appropriate power, and trying to take adequate distilled water for the humidifier. I could handle it, though, if not for the TSA’s obsession with liquids and gels!

        • Daisiemae

          I hear you talking about how difficult it is to travel with CPAP. It’s a nightmare! The worst part is the distilled water. Either you must carry jugs of distilled water with you (TSA must LOOOOVE that!) or you must run around at your destination to try to find some. That’s what I always did.

          Did you ever consider getting the surgery? That’s what I did, and HALLELUJAH, I am free from CPAP!

          The surgery was really painful for about 7-10 days and uncomfortable for another week, but after that, I was scot free. No more CPAP for me! And no more apnea.

          To me, CPAP was a nightmarish medieval torture device. Nothing would ever induce me to go back to using one.

          As for TSA’s treatment of you, words cannot express my disgust and loathing for TSA.

          • Kitten

            You couldn’t PAY me to go near “the surgery” !! It doesn’t work for large numbers of people, regardless of what the surgeons claim. Plus, my issues are mostly centrals, so surgery wouldn’t help. My machine is a god-send, and I won’t even consider going without it. Anyone who doesn’t know how to use a CPAP properly (and Durable Medical Equipment companies are a nightmare all their own) can find help at a Forum called CPAPTalk.

          • Daisiemae

            Well, I understand your feelings on that. It’s amazing how one thing works so well for one person and doesn’t work at all for another.

            I believe that one reason for the high number of failures with that surgery is the large number of doctors who are doing cookie cutter procedures on people who sometimes aren’t appropriate candidates. (Cranking them out to bring in those fees, doncha know.) From what you have said, it seems like you might not be an appropriate candidate.

            The first doctor I consulted wanted to do an entirely different procedure (much more invasive) than the one I ended up with. But something told me not to do it. I think that guy was doing the same surgery on anybody who came in. The procedure he was proposing was definitely not the right one for me (as experience proved.) If I had gone ahead with him, the surgery may not have worked for me or might have had some unfortunate side effects.

            I ended up treating with one of the top notch ENT surgeons in the country. He was recommended to me by a speech pathologist (who had the surgery done by him). This guy is a real artist who tailored treatment to my exact needs. My issue was small and subtle (yet devastating) and the surgery he performed reflected that. He treated me with the feather I needed rather than the sledge hammer the other guy wanted to use.

            I was very fortunate to find my doctor. He’s not only a fabulous surgeon but a fabulous person too. I only wish all my other doctors were as kind, patient, and caring as he is.

            I’ll never regret my surgery. The short period of time that I suffered from it never came close to the misery and suffering I experienced with CPAP.

            But I know that CPAP works out very well for some people. Seems like you found what works for you.

            Now, if we can only get those damned TSA screeners to leave you alone.

          • Kitten

            Yes, on the TSA screeners! However, I had a small success a bit ago — I was meeting my elderly father at his gate (he’d been to visit family elsewhere). It was late. I got a gate pass and wasn’t looking forward to it. When I reached the gate, they waved me to the nude-o-scopes. I smiled and said, “I’m sorry. My oncologist has forbidden me to go through those things.” The TSE sighed and unlocked the gate to the metal detector… no problem there, but there was “something” with their computer which was a problem. Not that they were calling for anyone else; I was standing there waiting. I asked, “Am I free to go?” No one said anything. I repeated it four more times, and finally, one of the TSEs said, “Yes, go.” How long they’d have kept me standing around if I hadn’t known to ASK, I don’t know. But I did know to ask — and was actually on time to meet my father.

          • Daisiemae


    • Susan Richart

      I hope you filed a police report about being slapped by that screener because that was assault and battery.

      • Kitten

        I was so taken aback I didn’t think to do anything — and plus which, Back Then, I wasn’t NEARLY as insistent about my rights as I am now. Now, yes, I would file one. Back Then, it didn’t occur to me to. So TSA News has at least educated ONE person! And my honest hope is that there are more like me who just don’t post here.

  • RonBonner

    I think there is room for discussions of TSA, baggage fees, and other areas of interest.

    I for one don’t consider $25 ($50 round trip) to be a “few extra bucks” and I don’t think the airlines can point to any factor which suggests that $25 (or any other dollar amount) is what it actually cost to transport checked baggage. In fact I will be paying that fee this Sunday and do so with bitter thoughts towards the airline that I am flying. Yes, they are gouging their customers and I resent it.

    I also believe that the more baggage that is carried outside of the passenger cabin makes loading the airplane faster, decreases gate delays, and ultimately saves the airline money, not to mention the safety gain of not having overhead baggage compartments popping open in flight during turbulent weather or in an emergency situation. Perhaps a fee if a person doesn’t check their baggage would be more in order.

    Airline fees are a legitimate area for discussion as is TSA, DHS, and other topics that come up. Let’s have tolerance for multiple lines of thought.

    • “Perhaps a fee if a person doesn’t check their baggage would be more in order.”

      That’s what this fee is. Trying to get people to check their bags. Though they also complain incessantly about checked bag fees. They complain about the lack of peanuts, pretzels, junk drinks, and blankies. They sound like children.

      I’ll say it again — if you can’t afford 25 bucks for a checked and/or carry-on bag, then you can’t afford to fly.

      • RonBonner

        Let me be clear in case what I wrote was misunderstood. I am not in favor of baggage fees of any kind. I see the charging of carry-on and checked bag fees as simply gouging customers.

        I’m one of those people who can afford to fly but I also stay very aware of how I spend my money. Perhaps that’s why I can afford to travel by air when it suits me.

        My trip this weekend is an awards redemption. If I had paid for the tickets then my bags would go free due to a credit card affiliation. That doesn’t make me happy about paying a baggage fee of any kind. That cost should be built into the price of the airfare.

        People who fly can pick airlines that are fee based if that works for them or choose carriers who include those fees into the cost of a ticket.

        I also believe that all seats in one class of service should have the same cost. Just imagine paying for a gallon of milk at the grocery store if the airlines were in charge! Some people would pay nothing and others would pay abusive amounts.

        Saying that those people who can’t afford baggage fees can’t afford to fly sounds a bit snobbish to me. Most people are on some sort of budget. Heck, most of the seats in the airplane are budget seats. Adding $50 or so to a round trip takes flexibility away from those people on tighter budgets.

        That brings us back to the so-called Transparent Airlines Act. That legislation is an attempt to hide from consumers the real cost of air travel. How is that beneficial to consumers?

        • Susan Richart

          Ron, a bit OT but are you still getting Pre-Check?

          • RonBonner

            We flew DFW/MIA/DFW earlier this year. Was given PreCheck on the first leg but not the return leg.
            Doing DFW/LAS/DFW starting tomorrow and when I checked in I see that we have PreCheck for the first leg. Won’t know about the return until check in time for that leg.
            We have not paid for PreCheck nor do we belong to a trusted traveler program.
            Both flights have been awards flights and I have no idea if that has any bearing but if it did would think we would get PreCheck on all legs.

          • Susan Richart

            I read/hear many comments about non-PreCheck flyers getting Pre on their outward bound flight but not on the homeward flight. That’s the TSA’s carrot and stick approach to trying to get people to enroll and I don’t think it’s working.

          • RonBonner

            You may have it. We did not get Pre out of LAS. Also just one regular lane open for all of the D gates. Of course numerous clerks standing around doing nothing as usual.

          • RonBonner

            Did the PreCheck thing today. This is how TSA screening should be for everyone.

  • Jack Stinglash

    I have to agree with you. It seems to me that if one can’t afford to pay for one’s bags, then perhaps one should take fewer bags.