Soon You’re Going to Have to Shove Your Bag Into a Sizer at the Gate — And Jump On It

Many foreign airlines have strict limits for cabin baggage. Americans aren’t used to this, they can pretty much drag anything onboard that is going to fit in an overhead bin as long as there’s still bin space available and certainly US airlines don’t weigh your rollaboard.

Whether Air France or Virgin Australia, airlines around the world take a different approach even for business class passengers. I do my best to avoid check-in counters when I’ve got heavy bags. If I can get a boarding pass online I will. But if I need to approach the counter, and they see my bag, they’re going to want to weigh it.

That may be coming to the US soon enough with the introduction of Basic Economy fares at United and American. Both airlines are going to limit customers on the least expensive tickets to only a personal item.

American defines this personal item as 14″ x 18″ x 8″ and is going to update bag sizers at the gates in order to help enforce this.

So we may start seeing US airport boarding gates look like this easyJet passenger determined to prove to the airline that his bag fits their rules.

A short video of the man shows him squeezing his hand luggage into a small frame designed to measure it – by jumping on it.

Filmed by his mates the man is seen bouncing up and down on the bag until it’s firmly wedged in the frame.

Unluckily for him when he tries to remove his bag from the frame he finds that it’s not possible.

Coming soon to an airport near you:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Yep, I guess the kitchen sink isn’t gonna fit in that thing! How very un-American! Call the all-new White House right now!!

  2. It won’t happen, on time performance is the name of the game with the airlines, and stopping everybody at the gate the check the carry on size, then fight with those who are in violation will delay flights, this isn’t a problem in out station but at major hubs talk about traffic jams.

  3. @Tony Spirit and Frontier have dialed this process in. I’d expect them to enforce it until/unless it doesn’t make them money.

  4. Now if we can just get airlines to stick to the same size it’ll make buying and keeping a carryon bag much easier…

  5. As someone who constantly marvels at the amount of stuff most travellers feel they “need” on the road, I do have sympathy for folks who will confront the new Basic Economy luggage restrictions. They are pretty much identical to what Spirit and Frontier allow for free. If I fly Spirit or Frontier, I do ditch my normal carry-on for a smaller backpack or suitcase. I think a typical adult could get about 3 days worth of clothing into an 18x14x8 bag, but you have to pack very carefully. No spare pair of shoes, for example. I sometimes use those plastic compression bags. It helps.

  6. Frankly it’s about time. I’m tired of fighting for bin space with some bloated bozo who drags a 22″ hard-sided wheelie onboard just because he can.

  7. Only thing annoying about this is that instead of adopting the 41″ TLD international standard they have gone with an even lower 40″ TLD with rather odd sizing 18x14x8… not a great number of quality bags in that range 19x13x9 is more common.

  8. @Tony: If this is going to cause such major delays at US hubs, how come it works just fine in Europe?
    @Bruce: I wholeheartedly agree. Personally, I think those extra ten minutes waiting for checked luggage are totally worth it, considering I’m not getting into arguments over overhead space and I don’t have to scramble when boarding.

  9. At SFO (or was it LAX??), United had already implemented this – as of the summer before last. (Year 2015)

    Was pretty irritating, because the UA agent before security made me *prove* that the rollerboard would fit in the sizer – had to shove it a bit as it was packed with my normal stuff.

    If I had known, I could have easily checked-in all my stuff into our suitcases – or even have checked the rollerboard! (But then risk damage to it)

  10. Maybe I’m not reading this right but isn’t this for the personal item that fits under the seat. I assume there will be little impact for regular customers and the carry on overhead items although I do wish they would measure those as well.

  11. @Johannes Can’t compare Apples and Oranges. Just like in Asia they can board a 77W in 25 minutes and have the door close, but in the states, it takes 45 minutes.

  12. US airlines already enforce the size restriction for cabin baggage. I have seen it ample times on Delta and United.

  13. I think DaninMCI is correct. This new restriction should apply to personal items of basic economy passengers only. Carry on bags and personal items of other passengers are not covered. It shows though that even us “ff experts” can get confused at times not to mention the 99.9 percent of passengers who don’t spend their time on blogs or playing the ff game.

    Airlines will need to make it abundantly clear who this personal item restriction applies to and how it will be calculated (must the item fit all three dimensions) and applied. My personal item is a backpack with a laptop. I’ve never measured it. But if that personal item were to be deemed non compliant, there is no way I’m transporting my laptop and certain other personal items I need on board as checked baggage. Removing those items from a non-compliant personal item at the gate presents many new problems.

  14. Here’s a novel idea for American travelers: how about you just bring a bag that meets the airline requirements. The rest of the world is more or less able to do it. Always amazed how much crap Americans bring with them. Pack smart!

  15. I hate checking bags. 128 flights last year, forced to check my bag twice. Lost it both times.

  16. Some of us have medical items that take a lot of room (leg night splints for instance). We’re not bringing non-essentials. We cannot check these items. If I were to do this and the luggage was lost, I literally could not walk. Stop being so judgmental and be a little bit more sensitive for those of us who are high maintenance through no fault of our own.

    And before I had this affliction, I went to Germany and shoved all of my training materials (that didn’t get there through DHL) plus my clothes, toiletries (I have to travel with my own since I am highly allergic to fragrance), etc. in my carry-on, and I had business suits in there. So don’t tell me I don’t know how to pack!

  17. Security has already determined the largest size that can go through the scanners. All they have to do is make the opening smaller and the bags can not go through. Rep Patrick Kennedy (Edward Kennedy’s son) had a problem where his bag would not fit and he got into trouble with the security agent.

    Shoving an airport employee, 2000
    An airport security guard claimed Kennedy shoved her after she told him one of his carry-on bags was too big. A soundless video shows Kennedy grabbing the guard’s shoulder and quickly shoving her. After a closed hearing, officials ultimately decided against bringing charges against Kennedy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.