Since I hang out a lot on planes, I find I spend far too much time over-thinking the logistics of air travel. I think I have stumbled upon a happenstance conspiracy. I’m not using the word conspiracy in the “illegal sense”, but instead in the not-what-you-think sense.
The new airline regulations have forced 90% of travellers to check their baggage rather than take extra carry-on baggage, since most people stay overnight and require a decent amount of fluid or gel to make it through the night and into the next day.
This has resulted in, my observation, consistently better on-time departures because passengers are spending less time trying to make efficient Tetris-like usage of the overhead stowage. Before, each decently-full flight would spend an extra five minutes (at least) of people moving stuff around, unpacking thick overhead bags, re-arranging, and there was usually some poor schmuck (me), who would have to carry their bag from the back to the front of the plane for a gate-check.
So, that is five minutes per flight times hundreds of thousands of flights per day. Airlines typically want a good on-time arrival record, so they burn extra fuel during the flight to make up in speed what they lost in time. The extra burned fuel is small in volume per flight, but propogated across hundreds of thousands of other flights, I am sure it gets extremely high.
Now for the conspiracy bit. By forcing passengers to check more baggage, airlines end up saving millions of dollars in saved fuel costs because of more on-time departures. I believe the FAA and TSA are a bunch of brain-dead beaurocrats that disprove the ballyhooed wisdom-of-groups theory. I believe that airlines propose these new “baggage check rules” under the guise of national security, when all they really are is a way to save on jetfuel costs, and then the FAA says, “Okay that sounds like a good idea so let’s call a press conference.”
I’ve contacted Steven Levitt at Freakonomics to see if he can sick his Indian research team on it. I don’t know if he really uses a team in India to do his statistical collection, but he should because it is statistically the cheapest way to gather statistics, statistically speaking.
Here are some pictures I recently took out of airplane windows when I would take breaks from feeling bitter about the US Government annoying me.