Like most of the civilized world, I was outraged when Spirit Airlines started charging for carryons.
Now I realize Spirit has half of a bright idea. They just didn’t take it far enough.
What airlines should be doing is charging for rollaboard carry-ons (those small suitcases with wheels), while allowing at least one checked bag per ticket for free.
Those of us who spend a lot of time traveling would happily (or at least grudgingly) pay a fee to avoid spending half of our life in check-in lines and waiting at the carousel. Those two lines add at least half an hour and usually an hour to every trip. Multiply by a few flights a month and you could spend literally days each year just waiting on your bag.
Charging for carry-ons would eliminate the scrum most flights have become, with inexperienced flyers trying to cram too-big rollaboards into too little space. The most clueless are the ones who drag their rollaboards onto the plane even though they’re among the last to board and have zero chance of finding space. (Experienced flyers, by contrast, travel with bags that will fit in all but the smallest regional planes, and gate check whenever they’re too far back in line to be assured of overhead space.)
In short, airlines fees are currently set up to maximize inconvenience. Maybe airlines couldn’t make quite as much money with a fee policy that actually makes sense and gets us out of the gate quicker. But one of them should at least try it and see what happens.
Of course, you can always skip bags altogether. For more on traveling light, read this.