The airline industry’s boarding and deplaning process is, generally speaking, about as organized as an overweight cattle stampede. If you’ve been on a plane recently, as I’ve been, you know the pain and frustration of watching fellow passengers who seem to pack a couple of freight containers in their carry on, then are surprised when they don’t fit in the overhead compartments, then get belligerent with you, with each other, and with the crew because they packed too damn much.

This is an economics problem. The moment airlines started charging for checked baggage, the boarding and deplaning problem got worse because passengers started carrying EVERYTHING with them. I saw one guy on the flight down to Tampa with his suit pockets bulging with AC adapters and a laptop bag that looked like it would burst. His carry on was so full that the zipper teeth were actually being strained, and it took him a good 15 minutes to sit down finally – thankfully not in my row. His fellow passengers were undoubtedly moments away from demonstrating creative uses of portable electronics and body cavities.

So how do you fix this?

If the airlines wanted to speed up boarding and departure times and still make margins, they’d reverse the charges – charge for carry-ons and make checked luggage free. Imagine if you incurred a $25 or $50 charge for each item larger than one cubic foot, with a simple plexiglas box at check-in. Fits in the box? Free. Doesn’t fit? You get charged.

There would be a side benefit to this as well. Lines at security would move MUCH faster. Imagine if the TSA only had to screen one bag per person. At most, you’d have maybe two items per person if a piece of portable electronic gear was involved.

Shorter, faster moving lines at security. Shorter, faster moving lines in the aisle of your aircraft as you get on and off your plane. Passengers with connections would be more likely to make the connections. Fewer concussions when the Druish Princess’ industry hair dryer can’t bean someone on the skull opening an overhead compartment.

All through the miracle of economics.

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