Opinion | Should You Check Your Bag, or Bring a Carry-On?

Readers react to a guest essay urging passengers not to check their luggage. Also: Musing about artificial intelligence; affirmative action.
Opinion | Should You Check Your Bag, or Bring a Carry-On?

To the Editor:

Re “Don’t Even Think About Checking a Bag,” by David Mack (Opinion guest essay, July 9):

I’ve been flying for over 50 years. I’ve flown around the world. Countless times to countless places. I have always checked my bags. Only once did I have a bag delayed — not lost — and I received it at my destination the next day.

I don’t crowd the aisles in boarding and deplaning trying to wrestle with almost full-size bags in the overhead bins, causing unnecessary waiting for my fellow passengers.

I don’t bring onboard bags that barely (sometimes not at all) fit in the overheads and crowd and crush other overhead items.

I don’t bring bags that weigh more than a normal human can lift (or bring down) and require the help of another passenger.

There’s a certain rudeness to this mass carry-on mania.

I do have to wait at baggage claim for a bit. But in addition I’m forced to wait a completely needless and inordinate time just to get off the plane while others retrieve their overhead luggage.

Passengers obsessed with full-size carry-ons perceive an inconvenience of checked luggage that is insignificant, and then trade their perceived inconvenience for mine.

Every day we take the enormous life-or-death risk of riding in an automobile. Seems to me most of us could also take the minor, non-life-threatening risk that our checked bags might be mishandled.

Lyndon Dodds
San Antonio

To the Editor:

When my husband and I started traveling again as the pandemic eased, he dared me to pack just a carry-on. Always up for a challenge, I did it, and it was a game changer. Nothing makes me happier than sailing off the plane with my bag, and into an Uber, ready to start our vacation adventure without the stress of waiting for luggage.

The truth is nobody cares what I’m wearing on vacation! And yes, I do post when I am on vacation, but no selfies. I like to think about all of the money I have saved from checked baggage fees. Try it!

Susanne Fischer
New York

To the Editor:

We would all find it unacceptable if the airlines started charging the passengers extra fees for being able to use the bathroom during a flight. To me, not having the ability to check one bag for free, regardless of the type of ticket a passenger bought, belongs in the same category.

On a recent flight from San Francisco to Newark I witnessed two passengers almost coming to blows in the struggle for the overhead bin luggage space. After a mad scramble, numerous people already inside the plane had to check their bags.

The airlines should not be allowed to subject the flying public to this kind of indignity on a routine basis. The Federal Aviation Administration should require airlines to allow at least one free checked bag for all passengers.

Ilya Kapovich
New York

To the Editor:

I remember my father’s advice: “Pack less. Take more money. You’ll have a better time.”

It has served me well over the decades.

Michael Dohn
Liberty Township, Ohio

To the Editor:

Re “‘Human Beings Are Soon Going to Be Eclipsed,’” by David Brooks (column, July 14):

I sympathize with Mr. Brooks. If world-class thinkers like Douglas Hofstadter are worried about generative artificial intelligence, shouldn’t I be, too?

But maybe all is not lost. A.I. has no imagination. Until a chatbot can sit under the stars, gazing into infinity, and reflect on the enigma of consciousness, we humans alone can imagine and build a better world.

Charles Ault
Haverford, Pa.

To the Editor:

As soon as someone can convince me that A.I. can develop a sense of itself, a self-perceived and self-conceived concept of itself with its own notion of who it is versus other sentient beings, that’s when things could get dicey.

Ask yourself, when A.I. isn’t being asked by us to do something, will it sit there and just think? If the answer is “yes” — “who” is the “it” doing the thinking, and what does it think about?

Ted Herman
Providence, R.I.

To the Editor:

A machine is a machine, no matter how you slice it. A machine can do nothing without a capability that a human has set in motion.

If technologists seem “oddly sanguine” about the prospect of humans living under an A.I. dictatorship, it’s because they are the ones who will be pulling the strings while the rest of us have to live with the resulting horror. It should be obvious that it’s not the machines themselves we have to control.

Julie Webster
Brookline, Mass.

To the Editor:

For me, as a rising junior in high school, the controversy around the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling is more than an abstract philosophical debate.

As an Indian American, I know that the decision is probably in my interest. Many of the members of Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiffs, look like me, sound like me and have experiences similar to mine. I have been concerned that my race could worsen my admissions odds; I can sympathize with their unease about affirmative action.

But, at the same time, I do not want to “win” if the deck is stacked in my favor. To be blunt, I won the lottery of birth; others less fortunate than I have had far fewer opportunities. Simply turning away from this fact perpetuates inequality.

More important, though, we should remind ourselves what college admissions is really all about. Is the admissions officer’s job to select those who ace the standardized tests? No; the people reading through those applications are looking to make a good community. And I sincerely believe that the best communities are diverse communities. Places where people look different, think differently, pray differently, speak differently.

Affirmative action may have had its drawbacks. It may have been ham-fisted with its lack of focus on applicants’ economic background. But our college communities are better off for it.

To be honest, I doubt that the Supreme Court’s decision will change much. I’d be shocked if admissions officers become completely race-blind going forward. And, as much as part of me wishes they could be, it would be wrong of them if they were.

Vedaant Srivastava
New York

To the Editor:

One subtle but important outcome of the decision to ban racial preferences in college admissions will be a much-needed reduction in stress for many high school students. As a parent of two children with different ethnic backgrounds, I was struck by how differently they felt about revealing this information.

My child of Indian ethnicity was stressed about having their odds of admission reduced if they revealed their ethnicity. My child of Hispanic ethnicity was stressed about the moral implications of receiving an unfair advantage by revealing their ethnicity.

Our kids suffer from enough stress already. Removing this unnecessary source of stress is one important step in improving the mental health of our nation’s next generation.

Brian Suckow
Palo Alto, Calif.