Will Virgin America start charging for carry-on bags?

What major U.S. airlines will be first to charge for carry-on bags?

What major U.S. airlines will be first to charge for carry-on bags?

Will Virgin America be the first mainstream airline to charge for carry-on bags?

Given the carrier's market position as an upscale airline, I highly doubt it. But at a conference last week in Scottsdale, Arizona, Virgin America CEO David Cush floated the idea. To him, it makes little sense that airlines don't charge for the overhead bins. 

"We give the most valuable space on the airplane to people for free," Cush said. "But we charge for the least valuable place on the airplane, the belly."

Cush said the industry is "backward" in the way it prices baggage. In addition to the inefficiency with overhead bins, Cush questioned why airlines charge the same baggage fees to customers on long flights as they do for short ones.

"Is anyone willing to go in and tackle the fact that our baggage fees are inefficient?" Cush asked. "Who will take the first leap?"

Ultra low cost carriers, including Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air, are already charging for larger carry-one. As I mentioned last year in my review of a Spirit flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, I love the policy.  Because checked baggage is cheaper than carry-on, few Spirit passengers bring bags on the plane. That means passengers board faster. It helps Spirit turns airplanes more quickly, and it probably ensures more on-time departures. 

It took a crisis - unexpectedly high fuel prices - for airlines to finally adopt checked baggage fees in 2008, and I suspect it will take something similar before the largest airlines begin charging for carry-ons.

What do you think? 


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