If there was ever an example of how little faith senators have in the free market, this is it. When Spirit Airlines announced last week it would start charging up to $45 for carry-on baggage, it caused an uproar with, well, everyone. In the media, around the water cooler, on Facebook walls around the world, the new fee was denounced as ridiculous on its face.
The idea actually may not be as crazy as it sounds. Spirit is built to be a discount airline, and it says the new fees allow it to cut base fare prices, and make boarding and deplaning more efficient. I can see myself carrying only a backpack/purse in exchange for a $70 roundtrip ticket. The airline will not likely be able to sell already grumbly airline passengers on the virtues of its new fee structure (It's kick-off was inauspicious.), but it's a rather simple problem for the market to solve.
Company reveals a fee structure almost universally unpopular with customers. Company loses customers. Company finds new way to do business, sells customers on fee structure, or goes out of business.
But Sen. Chuck Schumer thinks he needs to come to the rescue, with the full power of the federal government behind him:
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday he's trying to get the federal government to prohibit airlines from charging a fee for carry-on baggage, calling it a "slap in the face to travelers."
The New York Democrat is making a personal plea to the Treasury Department to rule that carry-on bags are a necessity for travel, which would make them exempt from a separate fee outside the ticket price.
"Airline passengers have always had the right to bring a carry-on bag without having to worry about getting nickeled and dimed by an airline company," Schumer said. "This latest fee is a slap in the face to travelers."
It's not a "slap in the face to travelers." It's a choice for travelers. They can accept or reject Spirit's pitch. But Schumer would use the federal government to prohibit this kind of legal experimentation in a troubled industry simply because he doesn't like it. Perhaps if Schumer succeeds, Spirit will go under due to the prohibition, and he can then inform us the discount airline he helped kill is "too big to fail," then use taxpayer money to save it.
After all, what's most important is that Sen. Schumer continues to be important.