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Overhead Problems

Aug 25, 2010 • Businesses, Labor, Thinking Economically • 118 Views    6 Comments

You’ve probably heard the story. Fed up, a flight attendant tells passengers what he really thinks of them, grabs a beer, presses the button for the emergency chute, and leaves the plane. The overhead storage bin might have been the reason.

Overhead bins create frustration for everyone. They increase boarding delays. A cascading overflow can be dangerous when doors pop open. Attendants have to restrain impatient fliers from grabbing a bag before the plane has stopped. A cost saving fast turnaround for aircraft is delayed by passengers having to retrieve their paraphernalia. Deplaning is agonizingly slow.

An economist would disagree with a NY Times solution: “Carry-Ons and Courtesy Need to Co-Exist“. Instead, incentives have to change. Because checked baggage generates huge revenue, airlines have the incentive to charge. Responding, passengers have the incentive to take more onboard. One solution? Spirit is charging for carry-ons. Your opinion?

The Economic Lesson

Two economic concepts explain the problem:

1) The fallacy of composition states that what is good for one is bad when everyone does it. An example is fleeing from a fire in a crowded movie theater. One person, alone, can quickly leave but everyone together cannot. Similarly, one person can enjoy the plane’s overhead bin but everyone together cannot. When airlines decided to charge for checked luggage, they worsened the fallacy of composition.

2) A negative externality is a cost to a third party because of the unrelated agreement between 2 other individuals. Here, the airline agrees with you or me that it is okay to bring baggage onboard. The result, though, is a cost to other passengers and the flight staff. On an aircraft, the negative externalities multiply geometrically because everyone is creating them.

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  • zavodnys11

    I don’t think there should be a fee for carry-ons; the cost of travel is already high. Another way to create incentive to check luggage is to lower the price. The article says that checking baggage already “generates huge revenue,” so airlines can probably afford to lower the price a bit.

  • elizabeth.y

    I agree with Ali when she says that there should be a fee to bring bags on the plane. A lot of the frustration that come with the overhead bins is due to the large bags the people bring on the plane so they don’t have to pay for checked luggage. If you have to pay for the bins, maybe people would be more inclined to check their over sized bags which would free up space for smaller luggage.

  • sherg11

    I agree that there are two ways to look at this situation. On one hand, flying is already very expensive for people, including the price of the ticket and the checked baggage, and adding another price for carry-ons would only make travelers unhappy; it might even make less people willing to fly. On the other hand, charging people for carry-ons would eliminate the problem of people trying to bend the rules and take all of their baggage on the plane with them, causing a dangerous situation if the doors should open and crowding the plane with their bags.

    -Gabby S.

  • Emily Hilton

    I agree with Ali that there are pros and cons for the bins, but I am not sure that a fee for carry-ons is a perfect solution. Passangers would be more likely to bring one larger carry-on, paying only for one bag but still taking up a large amount of space. Also, people probably wouldn’t shop in the airports knowing they would have to pay to bring it on board, therefore decreasing airport revenue.

  • Paige Shepperly

    I see the reasoning behind charging for carry-ons especially because traveling is now an all day affair and not just a couple of hours but I am not so sure I agree with charging for carry-ons. Akaiser said that people should only bring what they need onto the plane but need can depend on where they are going and what their schedule looks like when they get there. Need can also be easily confused with want when people are packing, for example some people may want to lessen the risk of losing their baggage but they may not need to bring their entire wardrobe onto the plane if they are not in a rush when they arrive at their destination.

  • akaiser

    There are pros and cons for overhead bins on airplanes. Even though they increase boarding delays and are dangerous when the doors suddenly open, they allow people to save money and also save time by not having to check luggage in at the airport and go to the baggage claim once landing. However, to lessen the negative side of carry-ons, there should be a fee so that people only bring what they actually need to bring on a plane. Charging people to bring carry-on should solve the problem of those who try to bring as much luggage onto the airplane as they can to avoid the check-bag fees.

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