Could airline baggage fees create another Steven Slater?

We’re still in the early stages of figuring out just want made flight attendant Steven Slater jettison himself from a JetBlue plane via the emergency slide. There are conflicting accounts from the passengers on board, including those who allegedly pushed Slate over the edge, and then there’s Slater’s story about having been beaten by an unruly passenger’s bag. He raised the issue of how passenger carry-ons are getting out of control – and how they’re only making flight attendants‘ jobs harder.

At the same time, we’ve seen a rise in the number of airlines charging fees for checked luggage. Before this happened, passengers were motivated to bring their luggage on board by the lengthy waits at carousels upon arrival. Now that you’re increasingly likely to have to pay for that dubious privilege, it’s even harder not to carry more on board with you. So, the overhead bins are becoming tighter, and passengers, eager to take their seats upon boarding and get onto terra firma upon arrival, are tangling more and more.

Not everybody has rushed to shove what they would have checked into the overheads, of course. Airlines are reporting billions of dollars in aggregate from ancillary fees, including those for checked bags. That money has to be coming from somewhere, of course. Nonetheless, there’s now even more reason to try to get your bags into the cabin, even with JetBlue’s “first checked bag free” policy.
So, the airlines have realized a return on customer frustration (a financial ratio I wish really existed), making money on checked bags, and at the same time, the flight attendants are sustaining headaches from passengers who are trying to dodge the cost. It’s no fun for anybody, particularly the passengers, who are paying to be put into this situation.

The big question remains: are these policies the breeding ground for the next Steven Slater?

Doubtless, Slater has been off-kilter for a while, having indicated that he’s been thinking about doing something crazy (like this stunt) for most of his career, which is closing in on a quarter of a century. While there are plenty of disgruntled and annoyed flight attendants out there – as there are disgruntled and annoyed people in any profession – this is the first time one of them has a deployed a safety device that could double as a weapon. Most have found ways to cope with the irritations that come with the contemporary flying workplace, and it seems safe to assume that Slater probably hasn’t inspired further in-flight shenanigans.

The implications of having to pay to check your bags are probably being felt in the cabin, but they don’t seem likely to inspire further (alleged) criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. As long as the airlines keep making money of these policies, and it appears likely they will, expect them to stick around for a while. Let’s face it: airlines need the cash. Unless there’s a direct connection between making money and creating another Steven Slater, you’ll have to keep ponying up a few bucks to check extra luggage.