Many flyers don’t remember that before 9/11 US passengers could take two carry on bags onboard. Generally passengers had a free allowance of three bags — and those could be two carry ons and one checked bag, or one carry on and two checked bags.
This changed as a result of government regulation. The TSA wanted fewer bags going through the checkpoint, which meant less screening work, and fewer delays given a fixed throughput at the checkpoint.
Continental Airlines actually pushed back: they had installed higher capacity overhead bins as a customer convenience. Passengers wanted to carry on bags, and they viewed this accommodation as a competitive advantage.
Of course that was before:
- Airlines charged for checked bags, and everyone wanted to carry their bags on as a result.
- Planes were so full, that overhead bins filled up even more still.
More carry ons, especially when they exceed the capacity of an aircraft, delay departures. Passengers board, look for space, and then gate check at the last minute. That’s costly to an airline and inconvenient for a customer.
On the other hand, it encourages passengers to try to board early, and to obtain early boarding privileges such as by obtaining the airline’s co-brand credit card.
The international airline body IATA has proposed new carry on size standards that are smaller than what most US airlines currently allow. By just a little bit.
At a meeting in Miami on Tuesday, IATA announced a proposed standard carry-on size of 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines, for example, limit carry-on bags to no bigger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
Call me skeptical, but ruling existing 22 inch bags oversized — by half an inch — doesn’t sound like “a program that is designed to make things easier for everyone” as IATA’s senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security claims.
As far as whether or not this voluntary guideline will be adopted:
Windmuller said about 30 to 40 airlines has expressed interest in accepting the IATA standard, with about a dozen foreign carriers, including Emirates, Lufthansa and Qatar, already agreeing to accept the guidelines.
“This should bring a degree of standardization to the industry and make it easier for everyone concerned,” he said.
It should be good for baggage manufacturers, I suppose, with customers going out and replacing 22 inch rollaboards if the guidelines do spread. And it should be good for IATA to the extent that they license the logo they’re planning to show that a bag is compliant with their guidelines. (This logo will likely lead to some interesting confrontations – as IATA guidelines compliance won’t mean they meet an airline’s guidelines, and a bag may well be larger when full – and I’d expect some customers to point to their emblem in disagreeing with gate agents asking them to check their bag.)
While I don’t actually view this as a ploy to extract more checked baggage fees from passengers, as airlines throughout much of the world allow free checked bags, I don’t think it’s customer-friendly at all.
A better approach? Alaska Airlines — which allows 24 inch bags — has installed new bins on their Boeing 737-900ERs that hold up to 174 bags, a 48% increase over the standard 117 bag capacity for the aircraft.
In much of the world, of course, a weight concept is used — passengers on airlines like Virgin Australia which impose a 7 kilogram (15.4 pound) carry on limit aren’t going to be able to bring even a 21.5 inch bag.
As for me, I’ll take my laptop bag on a simple overnight, a trip of 2-3 days I’ll take an 18 inch bag, and a week I have either a 20 or 21 inch. I wasn’t pushing the envelope on luggage size to begin with.
What sort of carry on do you bring?