American Airlines and two of its labor unions want the government
to step in and impose some discipline on the airlines and their
customers by enforcing a strict limit on carry-on baggage. As
American put it to the Federal Aviation Administration, "We do not
believe that individual air carrier policies regarding carry-on
baggage should be a factor in airline competition."
According to American, the airline industry "creates great
confusion for the traveling public, flight attendants, pilots and
ground personnel" by consistently failing to enforce its own
baggage limits. My, my. Isn't that too bad?
We do not believe for a moment that an FAA regulation is going
to stop airline gate agents and flight attendants from making
exceptions for high-mileage frequent flyers, or from simply giving
in to public pressure (time is of the essence!) and letting people
slip by with all sorts of cargo if there are lots of empty seats
We are skeptical when American claims that it wants to make this
a safety issue rather than a matter of customer service. It occurs
to us that if American truly has the courage of its convictions on
this matter, it should be willing to take airline employees out of
the loop entirely.
Suppose the security contractors at the X-ray screening stations
were required by the FAA to pass each bag through a measuring box
and limit each passenger to two pieces, regardless of what airline
he or she is ticketed on, what class of service, mileage status or
the anticipated load factor. No exceptions. No arguments. No
competitive pressure to look the other way for a platinum frequent
Assume for the sake of argument that airports could deal with
the logistical consequences of adding to the X-ray bottleneck
caused by the measuring boxes and ask yourself this question: Do
you think any major airline would be willing to go that far in
elevating "safety" over service? Good question, huh?