Paging Congressional Republicans: you want to run with a populist issue that could also get bipartisan support? I've got a law for you to push:
Prohibit airlines from charging for the first checked bag.
Here's the deal: some of you will have a gut reaction that this is bad form — free marketers should not want to prohibit businesses from making money as they see fit.
Well, you're wrong.
Airlines operate in an oligopoly with the federal government. Through gates fees and controls, they shut out competition. They rely on federal subsidies for mail carrying, etc. They have done everything possible to shut out the free market in air travel.
In addition, the feds have made it impossible to carry a full tube of toothpaste or a full bottle of shampoo on to an airplane. If you are going to be gone more than a few days, you've got to check a bag to haul your toiletries with you — especially if you are a woman. The feds are forcing bags to be checked.
Then, there is the other issue: because the airlines are charging for bags that are checked, more people are carrying overstuffed roller boards on to the plane. The bags don't fit or take up so much room that less people have room for their bags. This then causes delays as the flight attendants have to then check bags, which are not then charged the fee they'd have been charged if checked in up front. People, therefore, have an incentive to haul their garbage onto the plane and then let the flight attendant check their bags. This makes the plane late.
The checked bag policy drives up the costs of families traveling and women. As the airlines have worked hard to not operate in a free market and have used Congressional controls to benefit themselves against possible competition, Congress has every right to stop us from getting screwed by the airlines for daring to check a bag because we're going to be gone for a week and want our full tube of toothpaste to go with us.
There ought to be a law.