Sunday, December 26, 2004

Another Way the Airlines Screw Passengers

A conversion my father had with a Continental Airlines gate agent yesterday lead to my realization of another way the airlines are screwing passengers. You see, the airlines have put Regional Jets on a lot of routes, not only those formerly operated by turboprop aircraft, but also those formerly operated with larger jets like 737s and DC-9s.

So why is this a problem? It's simple. There's not a lot of space for carry-on luggage in the cabin of RJs, so like on turboprops, most "carry-on" bags need to be checked. The airline will let you drop off your bag on a cart next to the aircraft, and you pick it up on another cart after the plane lands. Different airlines have different names for this. For example, Horizon Air calls it a la cart.

So how does this screw the passenger? As my father learned, the airline will not be responsible for damage to bags checked plane side. Most passengers know that fragile items should be carried on, to avoid the possibility of their items being damaged when passing through the baggage systems or as a result of rough handling by airline employees. Checking a bag plane side helps as it avoids some of the machinery, but it is still subject to rough handling when being loaded into the aircraft's cargo compartment. By using RJs instead of larger jets, the airlines force passengers who had hoped to avoid damage to fragile items by carrying them on to check them anyway, with the bonus that the airline will not pay for any damage that results.

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