Schumer Gets Airlines to Promise No Carry-On Fees

A small-bore measure -- but sometimes small-bore measures matter.

Senator Charles E. Schumer said Sunday that he had commitments from five airlines that they would not charge passengers a fee for carry-on baggage.

Mr. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said he had received the promises in personal calls from top airline executives.

The carriers are American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines and US Airways.

This is the type of retail politics that makes Chuck Schumer, the number three Democrat in the Senate, one of the most effective politicians in America. While voters no doubt care more about major issues like the economy and healthcare than others, one cannot overstate the importance of efforts like these.

Don't believe me that actions like these matter? Think back four years ago to when Schumer got out ahead of the country, and his fellow politicians, by pressing the Bush administration not to allow the government of the United Arab Emirates to purchase control of major United States ports through Dubai Ports World. While this skirmish -- which Schumer won -- wasn't the proximate cause of the Democrats victory in the midterm elections occurring nine months later in November 2006, it did help cement the case that the Republicans and the Bush administration were out of touch. Indeed, the polling on the issue not long after Schumer exposed the deal ran strongly in opposition to the Bush administration's move, with just 17 percent supporting the DPW sale and 69 percent opposing.

Will Schumer's move, getting the leading American airlines to pledge not to charge for carry-on bags, have the same effect of his move to stop the sale of American ports to DPW? It is yet unclear. But at a time when Americans are particularly distrustful of the efficacy of government action, it can't be a bad thing for one of the leading Democrats in Congress to deliver tangible results on an issue a great many Americans care about.

Tags: Chuck Schumer, Airline Travel, Carry-on Bags, Democrats (all tags)




"one of the leading Democrats in Congress to deliver tangible results on an issue a great many Americans care about."

Really? Carry-on baggage fees?

As for the DPW controversy - well the Democrats certainly sided with the nativist/arabs=terrorists sentiment that was going around. It was a good bit of politics, but I don't think it actually helped any.

by vecky 2010-04-19 12:33AM | 0 recs
RE: Silly

It's not nativism not want a foreign government to control major American ports.

by Jonathan Singer 2010-04-19 01:16AM | 0 recs
RE: Silly

The ports in question were already owned by Britain (P&O, which was bought by DPW).

And i'm all in favor of having them American owned, but the whole bruhaha was because Dubai was well, Dubai.

by vecky 2010-04-19 02:15AM | 2 recs
RE: Silly

Was P&O owned by the British government? Because DPW is owned by the UAE's sovereign wealth fun.

by Jonathan Singer 2010-04-19 12:23PM | 0 recs
RE: Schumer Gets Airlines to Promise No Carry-On Fees

This isn't going to compare to an issue that stoked national security fears for many. But, it ain't nothin'. Three years ago I would have scoffed, but now that the non-Southwest airlines are charging for checked bags, this is quite encouraging. Thank you, Senator Schumer.

(I can't believe I haven't flown since December... that's got to be like a personal record...)

by Nathan Empsall 2010-04-19 01:38AM | 0 recs
This is what gives Democrats a bad name

I always argue that the big/little government argument is childish, and what we really want is efficient government. Sometimes that is big, sometimes it's small. Stupid stuff like this gives the Rethugs all the amunition they need to say Democrats interfere where they don't belong. Unlike health insurance, where you have to be able to see a doctor or die, you have different transportation options. Government should not be able to tell someone what they can charge for. How is this not ridiculous. Personally, I think people who try and take their steamer trunk as carry ons should have their luggage throw overboard, but I suppose that would be extreme.

by alectimmerman 2010-04-19 08:16AM | 0 recs

Look, it's a success for Schumer - who, it should be pointed out, likes attention as much as progress - but whether it amounts to anything remains to be seen. There's no agreement from Southwest, Frontier, Alaska, AirTran, or SkyWest - which means a solution that benefits New Yorkers, but possibly hurts others elsewhere... and if Southwest and/or AirTran see potential here, and move to carry on fees, I'd say all bets would be off about those agreements sticking.

There's also a couple of other obvious points to be made: one is that Spirit's move was instantly unpopular, making opposing it an easy call for other airlines; and two, there is an issue, especially around New York, with excessive carry-ons as a runaround from bag check fees and luggage delays on arrival. It's one thing for a busness travel with a day or two in Denver to be stowing an overnight bag; it's another when families of 4 or 6 are stuffing 5 rollie bags in overhead bins for 2 weeks at a resort. Spirit - which excels mainly at super cheap connections between the northeast and beach destinations in the south east and Caribbean - suffers this a lot (as do American, Delta and AirTran) and they're not crazy to be using a carry-on fee as an incentive to check a bag. It is an easy win for Schumer - whose constituency, let's say, might have a big interest in those New York to Miami runs - to oppose this, but grumpy seasoned travelers might like to see the carry on fee play itself out. I know I would.

Finally, the less discussed point here - and the reason this won't necessarily play out as a long term solution for Dems, is that the economics of air travel remain terrible. People are unwilling to pay what it actually costs to fly, and complain that airlines offer few amenities (which cost money, on the real world)... and then wonder why flying is as bad or worse than taking the bus. Unless we plan to return to an older, not necessarily popular model of propping up airlines with subsidies that use government money to cushion their expenses.... we're not likely to get a better - or more convenient - flying experience; but this is one place, I'd bet, where Republicans calls for deregulation are more popular than Dem proposals for more government intrusion. After all these years, Ive accepted that a deregulated airline system, with its flaws, is just what we're likely to have to live with. And the nickel and diming of fees, while I don't love it, does mean that, for a price, I can have exactly what I want. And I could live, in the long run, with a carry-on bag fee. Especially if it meant getting some luggage that belongs in the hold back down there.

by nycweboy1 2010-04-19 09:37AM | 0 recs
RE: Bags

Southwest doesn't charge fees for the first two checked bags, never mind carry ons. They campaign on the fact (and it's won me over more than once).

I may be in the minority, but I wish the airlines would just raise ticket prices enough to cover meals and baggage handling.  It's worth $50 to me not to be hit up for $25 at the airport and another $10 on the plane.


by Flynnieous 2010-04-19 11:21AM | 1 recs
RE: Bags

The only thing I want is for airlines to be up-front about their prices, rather than advertising $9 tickets and then tacking on $40-60 of taxes and surcharges once one gets to the checkout.

In Europe it's particularly bad, with Ryan Air even charging extra if you book by phone or check-in at the airport or use something other than a debt mastercard. Basically their just fleecing the customer.

by vecky 2010-04-19 01:50PM | 0 recs

Isn't Schumer a little too close to the financial industry?

by demjim 2010-04-19 05:11PM | 0 recs
RE: Schumer

And this has what, exactly, to do with carry-ons?

by johnsonlong 2010-04-19 11:59PM | 0 recs

Just that Schumer is not as great a Senator as this writer and others seem to think that he is.

by demjim 2010-04-20 10:48AM | 0 recs


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