Just Check Your Damn Bag. Please.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

There I am again, shuffling down the jetway with my laptop slung over my shoulder, the line barely moving. We’re 10 minutes from our scheduled departure, but the flight will undoubtedly be delayed -- we’re only on Boarding Group TWO!
And once we do finally take off, despite the captain's comforting reassurance over the intercom that we'll be traveling back in time and/or making it up in the air, we’ll probably still arrive late. Forcing all those people with tight connections to rush to the front, while the rest of us take an hour to deplane.
And whose fault is it? The airlines? The FAA?
No, it’s all the people with those goddamn roller bags. Seriously.

Rollerboards, or more specifically, the people who brag about "NEVER checking bags" are ruining flying. And it’s not just because boarding is only slightly slower than a 7-Eleven line on PowerBall day. It’s because now that we have to pay baggage fees, everyone thinks they can bring a full suitcase on board so long as it fits through the TSA X-ray machine. Completely ignoring the fact that rolling a trunk filled with your pet rock collection might, just might, impact other people. Those inflexible bags (and, honestly, giant duffel bags, too) and that me-first mindset are the root cause of our biggest gripes about flying.

Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock

Seat recliners: it's not all their fault

OK, so you're probably saying, no way dude -- fuck the airlines for charging me a checked-baggage fee, carry-ons FOREVER! And even still, seat recliners are a much bigger problem than roller bags.

Well, you have half a point. In a recent survey from Expedia, 32% of travelers rated them as the worst people on the plane. But are they really? Think about it: When a passenger decides to stuff two weeks’ worth of clothes into an obese bag and then takes 10 minutes trying to cram it in the overhead bin (wheels out, dammit, wheels out. No, no, not sideways!!!), what should traditionally be his “carry-on” (you know, that bag with his laptop, iPod, and copy of Divergent ) now must go under his seat, leaving no room for his legs. Which are then, of course, crushed when the guy in front of him decides to lean back.

And there you go, carry-on bags equal fistfights, chokeouts, and quite often diverted flights so that unruly passengers can be removed.
Maybe I exaggerate, but if we all just checked bags like sane people, put our small duffles with essential items in the overhead bin, and relaxed a little, I'm guessing the seat-reclining wars would end. Or at least subside a bit.

More bags EQUAL more delays

But wait, in that same Expedia study, “people who rush ahead to the front of the plane” were rated as the most irritating passengers by a full 35% of respondents. A lot of those folks, however, have tight connections, made even tighter by the slow boarding and deplaning process caused by, you guessed it, the abundance of roller bags.
Yes, delays are caused by a lot of things. But the most common, according to the US Department of Transportation, is late-arriving planes from other destinations. A number of factors go into that, but interminable boarding times are definitely among them. 

See, when you can’t find bin space for your rigid rollerboard and then ignore the flight attendant’s first three suggestions to check it -- before inevitably checking it when... whoa, look at that, there's STILL no space -- that causes a delay. And it’s not so much the one guy holding up the line by trying to fit a small dishwasher into an overhead compartment, it’s that SO. MANY. PEOPLE. are doing it. Multiply those extra minutes by 15 passengers, and you're approaching a significant delay. 

And that's only the departure. When the plane lands, two dozen elderly women will no doubt be waiting in the aisle for a kindly person to help them lower their bags full of antique mahjong tiles. And if you’ve got a flight to catch, that's infuriating.

Obviously, you see the point I'm making: If boarding didn’t take so long, and deplaning wasn’t a half-hour procedure, people wouldn’t be in such a mad dash to beat their fellow passengers to the front. And we would hate them less.


Checking bags is the socially responsible thing to do

Yes, I agree, waiting at baggage claim DOES take some time. And it's not always fun. But you know what? YOU’RE the one who decided to pack 12 dress shirts for a weekend in Montreal. So take some personal responsibility and understand that if you want to overpack, the rest of the plane shouldn’t have to pay for it. You should -- both with your time and your money.

Okay, so now you're apoplectic and ready to dive down to the comments to feverishly type something like, "Screw you Matt Meltzer, you're a terrible writer. I hate you. Also, I never check bags because “the airlines ALWAYS lose my luggage."

Well, I'm no airline apologist, but that's probably not true. Yea, sure, maybe once your bags were delayed, I won't dispute that. But according to both the Wall Street Journal and the US Department of Transportation, mishandled bags are HALF what they were in 2007, and only happen to 3.22 out of every 1,000 bags. That means you could fly almost every day for a year, and might get your baggage lost once. Those are some pretty good odds.

So next time you say “I NEVER check bags,” think about your other passengers. Checking your bag helps us all. Sure, maybe it's on the airlines to fix the problem. Maybe they could charge more for tickets and go back to allowing free bags, but let's face it -- that doesn't make much business sense for them. So it's on the passengers to be civilized, and realize that civility isn't always free, and that $25 is the price you pay to make the airplane experience better for everyone. Help make flying great again!

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Matt Meltzer is a travel writer at Thrillist and spent more money on baggage fees in 2015 than he did on alcohol. Follow his stress-free travel on Instagram @meltrez1.