As of today, two airlines have decided to start charging customers for all checked luggage. Okay, I get it, sort of- the airlines need to cover the increased cost of fuel, customers are more sensitive to base ticket prices than they are to the later add on components, especially when the point of purchase is once they're already at the airport or on the plane, etc. BUT...hasn't anyone at the airlines thought of the incentives that this creates for passengers? For a while now, airlines seem to have been steering people towards checking baggage, presumably because it makes the security checkpoint process more efficient (3-1-1 rule, anyone?) and the airline doesn't run into the lovely situation where passengers are fighting for space in the overhead bins. (Not to mention the fact that it's probably easier to smuggle something onto a plane when everyone is bringing boatloads of stuff with them.) Why would they now want to push people in the other direction? I suppose part of the answer is that the airline doesn't bear the direct cost for the security checkpoint hassle. However, I would argue that if you are making your lines longer and slower than those at other terminals for other airlines, you're going to lose customers in the long run. People are already displeased enough with airline customer service as it is, is it really worth a few $15 pieces of checked baggage to make it worse?
You may ask how this is different from charging for a movie or snack on the plane, since this strategy has seemed to work out okay. That answer is simple- your decision whether to purchase a snack on the plane doesn't affect me, whereas your bag that previously would have been checked but is now being examined in line in front of me and pushed on top of my stuff in the overhead bin does. (And there will be some of these bags, since not everyone will pay the $15.) So the aitlines are potentially inconveniencing all passegers regardless of whether they choose to pay the $15 to check their bags.