Senators: Checked Bag Fees Have Got To Go If Airlines Want To Cut Long Security Lines

Two U.S. Senators have told the airline industry to get rid of checked bag fees if they want to get rid of increasingly-long lines at security checkpoints, the Denver Post is reporting.

Senators Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, asked 12 major domestic airlines to get rid of checked bag fees, at least for the summer, in an effort to combat long lines at TSA checkpoints.

Already passengers are being warned that lines at TSA checkpoints are only going to get longer this summer. Airlines have been warning passengers to show up at least two hours early for their flights in order to get through security in time to catch their planes. In Denver, airport officials this week began telling passengers to show up three hours early.

senators checked baggage fees
Are checked baggage fees responsible for long lines at security checkpoints? [Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

So odious and ubiquitous are the long lines at security that one passengers’ rights advocacy group, Airlines for America, has asked passengers to tweet photos of long lines at airports with the social media hashtag #IHateTheWait.

Airports across the country are asking the TSA to do something to address the problem of long lines, according to CBS Dallas. Some airports are already using private contractors instead of the TSA, a move that New York and Seattle are considering for their own airports.

Even the airlines themselves are getting into the security game; American Airlines and Delta airlines have both loaned their own employees to the TSA, and are even working with the agency to redesign security checkpoints to better funnel passengers through.

Just how much good airport security even does is a matter of dispute. Writing on passengers’ rights website Travelers United, Charles Leocha says airport security is mostly a platitude.

“The visible part of TSA at the airports is mostly theater. It is there to make passengers feel safer. It is like a sacrament in the Catholic Church. It is an outward sign. But, the TSA outward sign does little. No terrorists have ever been apprehended. No bombs have been confiscated. No real threats have been uncovered by TSA airport screeners.”

Meanwhile, Senators Markey and Blumenthal believe that eliminating the unpopular and much-vilified checked baggage fees would be a starting point for addressing the long lines.

Here’s the problem: in order to avoid having to pay the checked baggage fees, passengers are cramming more and more luggage into carry-on bags and bringing aboard more carry-on bags. This puts passengers in the position of competing against each other for limited space in the planes’ overhead compartments — and it puts more stress on the security system, with agents having more bags to X-ray and inspect.


However, Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge a checked bag fee, and security lines are still plenty long at airports such as Baltimore International Airport, which is dominated by Southwest.

Regardless, the airline industry says that eliminating the checked bag fees would only cause fares to rise, as the airlines offset the lost revenue from the bag fees by raising fares. An industry spokesperson also called the senators’ request a “misguided” proposal aimed at re-regulating the airline industry.

Checked bag fees have been a thing since American Airlines first introduced the practice in 2008. At the time, the airline industry was feeling the pinch of higher fuel prices, and needed a way to raise revenue. However, since that time, fuel prices have fallen and airlines are enjoying record profits.

But checked bag fees remain, and they don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Do you think Senators Markey and Blumenthal are correct in calling for the airlines to eliminate checked baggage fees?

[Image via Shutterstock/Pavel Ilyukhin]