Not Checking that Bag? It’s Going to Cost Everyone

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Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned that the increase in the number of people carrying their luggage on flights is costing taxpayers. We just can’t win, can we, airlines?

Over the past several years, as more and more airlines began charging for checking luggage on flights, passengers started getting savvier about saving themselves some money by packing less — or maybe just by cramming everything they needed into carry-on suitcases. But that, of course, has had its consequences too. The popularity of carry-ons causes longer security lines, less space in overhead bins and even flight delays caused by people who fail to understand what carry-on size luggage is, thereby being forced to check their bags minutes before takeoff.

And now there’s more: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress this week that the increase in the number of people carrying on bags has come at a cost to taxpayers, to the tune of $260 million a year.

(More on TIME.com: See 20 reasons to hate the airlines)

How exactly does that work? Well, when you don’t check your bag in order to avoid checking fees, you’re increasing the amount of baggage that then needs to be closely examined at the security checkpoint, which means more TSA personnel needed and more shifts needed to be filled. So in the end, that carry-on baggage isn’t as free as you would like it to be. A $5 fee per one-way ticket is already levied when you purchase airfare. Now Napolitano has proposed increasing that fee in order to bring in as much as $600 million more dollars for her agency every year.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu asked whether airlines should be tasked to make up some of that difference rather than charging passengers more. Thanks, Mary, but that airlines would certainly make up for that cost by increasing fares — or perhaps charging for oxygen.

(More on TIME.com: See pictures of how Iceland’s volcano caused travel chaos)

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