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BAGGAGE CHART & QUIZ: The Party’s Over for the Carry-on Brigade

July 2, 2008 | Posted in: Airline News

Do you have any idea what the airlines say about size and weight restrictions for carry-on bags?

If you’re like most of us, you have no clue. When it comes time to pack, you probably just grab a bag, stuff it to the gills and try to shove it into that overhead bin.

DO NOT try that now. But DO check out our Airline Carry-on Baggage Chart.

You see, the airlines — especially American, United and US Airways, the ones with new first checked-bag fees — are now enforcing their size and weight restrictions for carry-ons. And why not? It’s only fair. If you pay to check a big bag, why should some dim-bulb get away with paying zip for a grossly distended “little” bag?

So how’s it working out? Well, we talked to the airlines — keep reading and we’ll tell you what they said — then take our BAGGAGE QUIZ.

You know what? According to American Airlines, passengers are taking it all in stride.

There are no riots, no warfare. Sure, some may try to cheat with over-stuffed bags, but they’re generally nabbed before they reach the security lines — nabbed by airline employees popularly dubbed the Baggage Police (but American — and US Airways, too — wants you to know they do not like that term).

We don’t know how United feels about the term; this was their response to our many questions:

“We have not started charging for a first bag yet so we are still assessing how we will better manage our carry-on bag policy.” (United spokesperson Robin Urbanski on the carrier’s first checked bag fee, which kicks in for travel starting August 18).

American and US Airways, though, had plenty to say.

In fact, American Airline’s spokesman Tim Wagner was pretty expansive. We asked about the possibility of cheaters — folks who try to head to the security lines with over-stuffed bags. He said, airline personnel will be on the look-out, and will send them back to the ticket counter to check (and pay for) a too-big bag. But could that delay a flight? Said Wagner, “We don’t delay flights for customers.”

You’ve been warned!

Okay, what if you do make it through the initial gauntlet of Baggage Police (sorry, I mean Luggage Enforcers), will the American Gate Agent get you? In a word, yes. And Wagner says he “believes” they will take cash, check or credit card (we’ll try to nail that down for you).

And what, we asked, would American do if a dim-bulb with an over-stuffed bag has no cash, checks or credit cards on him?

Said Wagner, “There’s not really a chance of that someone traveling has absolutely not one form of payment, now, is there?”

Point made. But you won’t have to worry about any of this, as long as you look up your airline’s policy on our Airline Carry-on Baggage Chart.

As for US Airways, spokesperson Morgan Durrant said at this time, you can’t pay a gate agent or flight attendant if your carry-on is too big; you have to go back to the ticket counter to get the bag checked.

We also asked Durrant about US Airways upcoming beverage service change (the sodas and such that used to be free will now cost $2); specifically, we wanted to know about the availability of water — can you still get water for free? The response indicates US Airways does have a heart:

“Yes, especially during any extended taxi-out or taxi-in delay while the aircraft is on the ground, and at other times when requested by passengers for need. Our flight attendants are instructed to err on the side of the customer.” — Morgan Durrant, US Airways

Okay, so there you have it — the scoop (so far anyway) on water, and baggage. Again, if you’re not sure of carry-on baggage restrictions, you must see our chart.

Save time, save money, and save the potential for a whole lot of frustration.

And now — the BAGGAGE QUIZ!

QUESTIONS: True or False

1. If the airline folks don’t nab me for my over-size carry-on, the TSA will.

2. My bag is the right size and weight, but there’s no room for it, so I have to pay to check it.

3. All airlines have a uniform weight and size requirement for carry-on bags.

4. Airlines love the term, “baggage police”.

5. If I’m smart enough, I can get an over-sized carry-on through airline baggage enforcement lines, security, gate agents and even flight attendants.


1. Probably False. The airlines determine the size and weight allowed for carry-ons (as one airline rep put it, “that’s not TSA’s job”); the TSA’s concern is that you limit yourself to a single carry-on bag that can be safely stowed, and, they’re interested in what’s inside of it (see the 3-1-1 rule).

2. False. In this case, the airline will check your bag for free.

3. False. And that’s why you have to check our Airline Carry-on Baggage Chart before every flight.

4. False. “Although,” said a US Airways rep, “that might make a funny skit for Saturday Night Live.”

5. Maybe. But why take the chance of discovery, and possibly being sent back to the ticket counter and maybe even missing your flight, all to save $30?

6 Responses to “BAGGAGE CHART & QUIZ: The Party’s Over for the Carry-on Brigade”

  1. Good article Rick.

    Luggage (checked and carry-on) is getting me more and more trepidacious of flying on carriers where I am not premium.

    I mentioned months ago that I expected carry-on’s to be measured and weighed. So this comes as no surprise.

    Aloha, http://beatofhawaii.com

  2. Julie says:

    Well, what in the world are they going to do about my camera bag? Yah, it’s right at the limit of the size and weight class for most airlines … and if someone decides they don’t want to let me on with it, are THEY going to be willing to pay for the $6,000 worth of camera lenses and my computer in there?

  3. Denise says:

    This past weekend, our trip included 4 flights on USAirways. Not once did the gate agents or flight attendants question any of the passengers whose bags were clearly over the “official” size limit or who were carrying two gigantic bags (instead of one bag and one “personal item.”) As a result, the overhead bins were STUFFED and we had to wait while things were shifted around and items placed under seats. The only request made was that passengers should keep coats and hats out of the overhead compartments to make room for larger luggage.

  4. Abhiroop says:

    @Julie, I realise your dilemna, but as far as I know the airlines have a “we do not care” policy. If you have an oversized camera bag and are unwilling to check it in thats your problem.

  5. Eric Bowles says:

    The TSA guidelines for camera gear state the following:

    “You may carry one (1) bag of photographic equipment in addition to one (1) carry-on and one (1) personal item through the screening checkpoint. The additional bag must conform to your air carrier’s carry-on restrictions for size and weight.”

    Here is the link for reference:

    I carry a printed copy of the guidelines but have never had to use it. I also try to limit my carry-on baggage so it does not look like I am trying to carry two large bags on board.

    Of course, with commuter airlines you may have to comply with smaller baggage restrictions. And outside of the US, this rule does not apply.

  6. Tom Crane says:

    Carrying a copy of the guideline won’t do any good if the airline declines the additional piece of carry-on. It is their rule on one carry-on and one personal item. TSA cannot over-rule the airline on this. It is controlled by the FAA. And you also need to be careful what you place in your personal item carry-on. Airlines can decline a ‘personal item’ carry-on if they deem it to not be personal items.

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