As those of you who fly regularly know, the carry-on bag situation is getting out of control. Finding space in the overhead bins is sometimes difficult, and boarding becomes a bit of a free-for-all. Attendants have to take time to put the overflow below, delaying the boarding process even more. The reason is because many airlines are now charging for checked luggage, so more people are bringing bags onto the plane with them instead, and larger ones, at that.
And there’s the rub. Turns out it’s size, not necessarily quantity that’s changing. Virgin America estimates that 80 percent of their customers board with a personal item, such as a purse, and a carry-on bag, which is what airlines typically allow. According to research done by United Airlines, it’s not that more travelers are carrying bags aboard, but they’re carrying up to the size limit [and beyond], when they used to take smaller bags.
Baggage fees generated 3.36B for airlines in 2011, so we can’t expect those charges to go away, but according to an article in USA Today, what many airlines (United, Delta, American and US Airways, to start) are doing is either retrofitting older airplanes with larger overhead bins, or purchasing aircraft with bigger bins.
United is retrofitting its 152 Airbus with curved bins that can accommodate up to two-thirds more bags. American Airlines’ new Boeing 737-800 aircraft can carry 48 more bags in the bins than the MD80 planes they are replacing. They already have 173 of the new planes in the fleet, with 133 more on order.
Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner and 737s are being built with pivot bins that can better fit standard 9x14x22 inch roll-aboard bags (yes, that is the largest bag you should consider using as a carry-on). And new bins have curved doors that can fit roll-aboard bags wheels first (yep, the attendants give you that instruction for a reason).
Some airlines have taken a different tactic, discouraging carry-ons by charging for them. Spirit Airlines were the first to charge for carry-ons. Allegiant Airlines recently joined Spirit. But the major airlines haven’t followed suit, thank goodness. Instead, they’re willing to adopt bigger overhead bins. They say a better boarding process will result in happier travelers (ya think?!?).