I curse the airlines’ draconian ban on weapons every time I see some idiot blocking the aisle while trying to hoist a steamer trunk into or out of the overhead bins. If there’s ever a time the use of deadly force is fully justified, this is it. I mean, when it doesn’t cost anything to check a freaking bag, except for maybe 10 minutes at the end of the trip, why try to cram everything you own into a soft-sided footlocker and pretend it’s not a major inconvenience for the rest of us? I guarantee, the few minutes you save by skirting baggage claim will be borne by everyone else forced to wait while you assess the various angles, pressure points and contortions necessary to get your overfilled bag and your lard ass out of the way. Oh, and don’t forget your precious iBook, briefcase, James Patterson novel and cloth carryall filled with crap you couldn’t do without at the duty-free shop. Why not bring an inflatable kayak too? It’s just one more maddening obstacle between me and the blessed sanctuary of Concourse A.
This is why I would rather duck-walk than fly to most destinations. That goes double when the carrier is American Airlines, where the suits at have taken a long look at their troubled industry and concluded that the experience of air travel is not quite hellish enough. Deciding that passengers need additional incentive for boorish behavior, American has decided to charge $15 for the first checked bag.
Ingenious. People already routinely flout the carry-on restrictions, so let’s make damn sure everyone brings more useless crap onto the plane. Let’s increase the demand for overhead-bin space, secure in the knowledge that the supply is forever fixed. Let’s arrange it so bellicose business travelers end up fist-fighting in the aisles: That will speed the boarding process and ensure an on-time departure.
Somewhere, at some airline, there is undoubtedly a plan to install coin slots on every seat recliner, tray table and toilet on the plane. I’m OK with that last one — anything that deters people from stinking up the rear of the aircraft can’t hurt — but someday, I think, we may reach a point where the mental, physical and financial cost of flying will outweigh whatever convenience remains. Or we may return to the days when air travel was for the wealthy, those able to pay for limitless bags of stale pretzels and exclusive rights to their own overhead bin. That’s when the rest of us get back to Greyhound, I guess. Or, God willing, the train.