When most airlines imposed fees for checked baggage in 2008, frugal passengers responded by carrying on all of their luggage. The result was overcrowded overhead compartments and delays at boarding as flight attendants rerouted excess bags.
Finally, an airline is doing something to discourage what seems to have become a routine practice of ignoring carry-on limits -- both for size and number of bags. Alaska Airlines is charging $25 per gate-checked bag -- $5 more than its regular checked-baggage fee, The New York Times says. It's the first domestic airline to do so.
The Seattle-based airline didn't announce the change, but "quietly" added the fee to its website's Carry-On Baggage section, the Times said. The fee applies to all bags that exceed the limit of one free carry-on bag and one personal item, and any bags that exceed the airline's size limit.
"Everybody who flies knows that it's just a mess boarding at the gate," Jay Sorensen, the president of IdeaWorks, told the Times. (Post continues below.)Sorensen, whose company specializes in building airline revenues, says checked-baggage fees "have conditioned many travelers to just take a bag to the gate and let the gate agent or the flight attendant on board the airplane sort it out. It's a horrible system."
Alaska's carry-on limit -- a 10-by-17-by-24-inch bag, including wheels and handle -- allows a slightly bigger bag than that permitted by most domestic airlines.
Alaska's fee is modest compared with the one announced last month by Spirit Airlines -- a $100 fee for anyone who waits to pay that airline's carry-on bag fee until they're at the gate -- beginning Nov. 6. Spirit is one of two airlines that charge a fee for carry-on bags that won't fit under the seat.
Other airlines have considered a fee for gate checking, but most were reluctant to discuss it with a reporter, the Times said.
"We don't have any immediate changes planned," United Airlines spokesman David Messing told the Times. "We're looking at how to prevent so many noncomplying bags from reaching the gate, as well as better ways to handle noncomplying bags that do reach the gate."
I'll be getting on an Alaska Airlines plane soon, and I'll be interested to see if the new fee makes a difference. First, however, I'm going to measure my carry-on bag.
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