AWhite House National Economic Council report on “hidden fees” described airlines’ checked baggage fees as “de facto mandatory” and operating in a transparency “gray zone” in which the fees were optional only in a “theoretical sense.”

This was the latest salvo fired at airlines’ checked baggage fees since US airlines started imposing them in 2008. But the complaints about checked baggage fees are largely misguided. Those wanting them rescinded are inadvertently advocating for worse customer service for passengers and pushing airlines to adopt a policy that would likely make the carriers poorer performers operationally and financially.

The global airline industry’s mishandled bagrate in 2007 was 18.9 per 1,000 passengers, an all-time worst performance, according to SITA. Although passengers could check bags for free, it was a costly business for airlines, both in terms of operating performance and pure costs. Airlines also had no idea, flight to flight, what the baggage situation would be. Since airlines have started charging for checked bags, handling performance has improved dramatically because with the fees a semblance of order and discipline has been brought to the baggage handling process. The numbers tell the story: the mishandled bag rate per 1,000 passengers in 2015 was 6.5—down more than 65% compared to 2007.

Since the fees were introduced, airlines have also gone from being perpetually unprofitable to being perpetually profitable, especially in the US market. This is not because of the baggage fees alone, but these charges are a good example of airlines acting like real businesses —covering their cost of operations while improving customer service.

If checked baggage fees were rescinded tomorrow, airfares would have to go up. Looked at this way, having baggage fees is more transparent than not having them. Sans fees, airlines would have to factor in the cost of carrying checked bags into base fares, and passengers wouldn’t know how much of their fare was taken up by baggage-carrying costs.

And while the National Economic Council calls checked baggage fees “de facto mandatory,” this is misleading. If a passenger checking no bags and a passenger checking two large bags are paying the same fare, the passenger with no checked bags subsidizes part of the other passenger’s ticket.

According to US Department of Transportation statistics, the average total domestic roundtrip airfare, including checked baggage fees, dropped each of the last two years and was 6.8% lower in 2016 compared to 2014. Adjusted for inflation, the average total roundtrip domestic airfare, including baggage fees, was 11.5% lower in 2015 compared to 2000. So baggage fees are not driving up the cost of flying for airline passengers.

But what’s not clear about the White House report, given it was released at the very end of 2016, is whether it will have any influence. With new US President Donald Trump and his administration installed, this seems unlikely.

Much will depend on Elaine Chao, whose Senate confirmation hearing to be US transportation secretary was held in early January and who was widely expected to be approved. During her hearing, Chao spoke only broadly about issues facing DOT and FAA, although she acknowledged that air traffic control reorganization was “of great importance.”

Speaking more generally, however, Chao indicated a desire to “unleash the potential for private investment in our nation’s infrastructure” and pursue financing tools such as public-private partnerships. While that was aimed at solving US air transportation’s infrastructure challenges, it hints at a pragmatic, business-like approach to aviation.

One of Trump’s main campaign themes was that his experience as a businessman would make him a good president. It’s difficult to see how a businessman could justify preventing airlines from operating as good businesses. And while baggage fees might not top the new administration’s list of priorities, they contribute to why most US airlines operate today as sound businesses. As such, airlines also contribute significantly to GDP, are major employers, and many are even good investments. What businessman would not see the sense in that?

Aaron Karpaaron.karp@penton.com