Editorial: Let bags fly for free

Published 7:58 am Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Southwest Airlines has it right. The discount airline allows the first and second checked bags fly for free.

The strategy has paid off, according to a business story in the Los Angeles Times. It increased market share in 2009 and gave raises to its employees. The chairman cited the “bags fly free” as the reason for the airline’s success.

Meanwhile, Delta — which purchased Minneapolis-based Northwest Airlines last year — keeps jacking up its checked baggage rates. Continental matched Delta, making the two airlines the highest charging in the industry.

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The L.A. Times pointed out that baggage fees are raking in big-time revenue for major airlines — $740 million in the third quarter of 2009 for the 10 largest airlines — so some economists speculate Southwest’s strategy results in a draw economically.

Baggage fees are a nuisance, but they also are a result of the high cost of fuel.

Still, it’s clear passengers appreciate Southwest’s strategy. It seems airlines, like in what now seems like the old days, should calculate hauling bags into the basic price of a ticket, rather than finding insidious ways to mark up costs.

Our advice: Be a lightweight flyer.

Buy the low-price, no-bags ticket. Fit all your stuff into a carry-on bag. If you need additional clothes, buy them when you get there. If you have a friend or family there, leave your new clothes for when you return.