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I hate checking bags unless absolutely necessary. My aversion is not because I want to avoid checked bag fees (since co-branded credit cards and elite status make it easy enough to avoid them), but because it makes the whole travel process harder. Sure it makes getting through the airport and on/off the plane easier without all the extra stuff, but it guarantees you will be stuck in the airport longer on the back end of the trip. I don’t have scientific data to back this up, but I am often waiting 30-40 minutes from when the plane lands to when I can get my bags at IAH. I’ve had better luck at some smaller airports (such as when I checked my snowboard to airports like Vail or Aspen), but an extra 30+ minutes hanging out waiting for luggage after a trip with a kid is not my favorite.
Worse than that is the added risk of having your stuff lost or delayed. I know it is just stuff, but I happen to like my stuff…that’s why I bring it on trips. Heck, I ended up in a Kim Kardashian pink bikini in Vegas when I had to last check my bag against my desires and it went missing for a while. Worst $135 dollars ever spent (though thankfully it was pretty much reimbursed). Sure delayed, damaged, or lost bags are “rare”, but if you travel enough it will happen.
Thankfully, I rarely have to check bags as my 20 inch Briggs & Riley Transcend Carry-on Expandable Wide-body Upright bag (you can find the review I wrote as a guest post for another site here) can hold enough stuff for my common 3 – 4 day trips, and it fits just fine in almost all carry-on bins other than regional jets (unless I over stuff it with too much ski gear). We make sure to get on the plane early enough in the boarding process to secure overhead bin space, and thus we eliminate wasting time waiting at baggage claim, and eliminate the risk of our stuff not making it on the trip with us. This system has worked for us for years, but dark baggage clouds seem to be forming over our methods.
United Airlines to beef up enforcement of carry-on rules:
Rumors have been growing that United Airlines plans to beef up the “baggage police” and start much more strictly enforcing their carry-on maximum bag limits of 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels and one personal item that goes under the seat such as a laptop case or small item that is no larger than 9” x 10” x 17”. This may not sound like a big deal, but I can guarantee if you go measure the bags you normally use that many of them will be over those limits…especially when counting the wheels and handles.
Indeed I have seen more baggage sizers out in the airports, I have started to get emails from United reminding me about the carry-on rules, and the reports of carry-on size enforcements are growing on Flyertalk. March 1st is supposedly the date this full on baggage gestapo movement goes live.
Well, in theory nothing. It is certainly within their right, and perhaps even a good idea to enforce a rule if you are going to go through the trouble of having it. However, I’m still not happy with this change…and I’m not a rule breaker by nature. I think this is the wrong change to address the problem, though I do agree there is a carry-on bag problem that is massively slowing down the boarding process.
A better solution:
A much better solution would be to improve baggage handling so that folks aren’t afraid to check their bags and trust that they will come off the plane within a reasonable amount of time. Alaska Airlines has a 20 minute guarantee for checked bags coming off the planes, so that seems like a reasonable target for other airlines to copy (not to mention their carry-on bag size requirements are more reasonable than United’s). Additionally, I would recommend using a max carry-on size that is more in line with what the aircraft bins can hold, which in practice is a fair bit larger than the published carry-on sizes.
Bag manufacturers also need to do a better job marketing carry-on bags that actually comply with the common carry-on bag sizes. Yes customers should do their homework with the dimensions, but it is reasonable to assume that if a bag is labeled a “carry on” that it should meet the carry-on size requirements for most airlines. Sadly, many customers have purchased carry-on bags (myself included) that they may not be able to use as carry-ons if this movement to enforce the written rules takes hold. Airlines can set their own carry-on requirements, but 9 x 14 x 22 is a common max used by United, American, Delta, and others.
My own bag is mostly fine in terms of height (maybe slightly too tall counting wheels and handle) and depth, but it is 1.5 inches too wide. In fact, I have found that being too wide is a common problem for many “carry-on” bags.
Get a New Bag:
If this does come to pass, and I find my “carry-on” no longer being allowed on, then I will ultimately have to buy a new bag. I simply travel waaaaay too much to deal with checking luggage on a regular basis because of an inch or two. If you are a family who travels once or twice a year, then my recommendation would be to just prepare ahead of time to check your bags if they are going to be too big. However, if you travel at least monthly, my recommendation would be to start shopping if this really does happen and your carry-on is now a checked bag.
I’ve wanted the Rimowa Salsa Deluxe 21″ Cabin Multiwheel Spinner ever since I saw them on the Star MegaDo. They are beautiful, but more importantly, so easy to pull through the airport that a two year old could probably do it with ease…but at 15.7 inches wide they are still too wide for the rules. Not to mention the price tag is a “bit” out of my range. However, I will be looking for a similar spinner bag next time I make a bag purchase as I think they are great for families due to the ease of maneuvering. Perhaps I should shop in the Barbie aisle for one small enough to meet the exact sizing requirements.
I know many people who will be cheering the enforcement of these rules, but I won’t be one of them. I agree a problem exists, but I don’t think this alone is the appropriate solution. I’m almost afraid to ask, but what do you think of the “rumored” upcoming clamp down on carry-on rules? What bag will you use to get your family’s stuff on-board United flights, or will you start checking more bags?