United Airlines CEO Has Big Misunderstanding About Small Carry On Bags

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has been touting his carrier’s new interiors. The United NEXT cabin includes internet that finally works, catching up to the rest of the industry, as well as larger overhead bins like many other airlines offer.

They’ve committed to seat back entertainment screens, something he eschewed when he was President of American Airlines. First class has wireless phone charging, and every seat has bluetooth connectivity. While the seats in coach are still too thin, the cabins are beautiful. While new delivery aircraft like United’s Airbus A321neos feature this cabin, they’ve been slow to retrofit the rest of their domestic fleet as-promised.

What’s striking to me, though, is how Kirby describes these new overhead bins because he – or whomever wrote this for him – does not know what the full sized carry on bags (which they ban passengers on basic economy fares from bringing onto the plane) are called.

Our first Airbus A321neo took its inaugural flight from Houston last night. Our new aircraft are the best customer narrowbody aircraft anywhere in the world with large screens with seatback entertainment with Bluetooth connectivity in every seat, large overhead bins that can accommodate a roller board for every passenger on a 100% full airplane, and faster Wi-Fi.

According to CEO Kirby, passengers bring small wheeled bags on board that are called “roller boards.” What on earth are those?

Like those people who thought Elton John sang about “my old goat Teddy and a place in Bayonne” in Crocodile Rock he’s clearly thinking about – and misheard – “rollaboards.” They “roll” because they have wheels. And they’re brought “aboard” the aircraft.

It’s not only the correct, coherent name – rollaboard is in fact the original trademarked name for a rolling suitcase, owned by Travelpro whose first use dates back to 1987. (Similar ‘Roll-Aboard’ was first used in 1985.) On the other hand a roller board might be a scooter made out of plywood? As best I can tell, its use as a reference to a wheeled cabin bag began as a way for knock off bags to get around the trademark.

Kirby isn’t the only senior airline executive to get basic terminology wrong. American Airlines Chief Operating Officer frequently refers to “lay flat” business class seats, instead of “lie flat.” Seymour used to work under Kirby at American Airlines and US Airways.

(HT: Andrew G)

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

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  1. Don’t get me started on United’s policy with carry ons. Just flew on a basic economy ticket from Portland-San Fransisco- Singapore. I knew I could bring a carry on (along with small item) on the San Fransisco Singapore leg, but had no idea what the deal was with the domestic flight from Portland to San Fransisco.

    One online chat CS agent said I had to pay $150 extra for the domestic part. That didn’t sit right with me, so I contacted a second CS agent. She told me since I was flying international, I was allowed both a carryon and small item on the entire flight (with basic economy). Completely different info from different people, added extra stress to my United experience. Look forward to flying ANA back from Hanoi, no more United for me.

  2. I think the airline industry invented the verb “to deboard” which was redundant because the proverb “to alight” already existed. We trust our air safety people who didn’t pay attention in high school and who cant even use dictionaries or thesauri.

  3. I think you need to cut the guy some slacks. We all know what he meant. I’m more concerned with the design changes, or lack thereof. For example, I see they still haven’t moved the seed pockets. I’ve been complaining to airlines for years that I don’t have anywhere to spit my sunflower shells when the tray tables are down.

  4. Actually, a bit of research shows that both “rollaboard”and “roller board” have legitimate roots; see https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rollaboard-rollerboard-suitcase_l_621feda3e4b0a7b54cd8d74c, for example.

    What’s not in question is the author’s grammatically incorrect use of *whomever*, an object pronoun, in the phrase “– or whomever wrote this for him –”. Instead of criticizing others’ use of “lay” vs. “lie”, how about brushing up on your own grammar?

  5. Thank you for the attention in American language. Dampner for damper, may or may not, and carryon. The latter suggesting if you can carry it you may board with it. Backpacks the size of children come to mind. The fruits of 340MM people trying to get along. Someway it works!

  6. Upgrading the cabin interior is one thing. Upgrading the toilets is another matter. The sink/basin in Airbus aircraft creates huge problems for passengers with stomas. Boeing basins have removable filters, which are a great convenience for ostomates. If the so-called upgrades include a change \from removable to fixed filters, I’ off United for any long-haul travel.

  7. I fly very often domestically and utilize United and the other majors, Delta, American, Southwest, etc.

    I now realize that there is no such thing as a good flight. Every flight from any carrier is a total pain. Unreliable, uncomfortable, any adjective that can be used.

    Screw all of the industry. A necessary evil for sure.

  8. Rollerboard is the terminology used across rhe entire airline industry. Speaking as a flight attendant here …whi does not work for United

  9. He said “roll-aboard bags” and “roll-aboards” .
    But thanks to cloth-eared nincompoops like yourself, I can waste my time reading an absolutely pointless article which is not remotely entertaining nor interesting.
    How do I block this rubbish?

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