Wednesday, June 17, 2009

For Discussion: Hand Luggage or Checked Bags?

Every time I have travelled recently, I have noticed that more and more people are taking excess hand luggage on the plane instead of checking in bags when they travel, due to the charges imposed by the airlines. It got me thinking last night while I was wide awake in bed - what is the etiquette around this and how is it enforced? From what I understand, passengers are allowed to take one personal item (e.g handbag) plus one item (bag, suit bag etc) on the plane, not to exceed 21 inches in size. Have you seen the size of a 21 inch suitcase? It is a pretty decent size bag, I almost want to say its bordering on being too big to carry on board. I am travelling to Hawaii in the next couple of months and I am trying to decide if I should just take a small suitcase on the plane, or if I should respect the space of other passengers, check in my bag and pay the $30 charge.

My gripe with this is that the majority of people who bring carry-on items into the cabin do not comply with the regulations that the airlines put in place. When we were returning from Hawaii last trip, one man had 3 suitcases - two of which he jammed into the overhead compartment and the other one was pushed under his seat and stuck out, leaving him with no leg room for the flight, and the passenger next to him had great difficulty getting in and out of her seat. Why are people allowed to do these things, and why do they do it? To save $30? That seems ridiculous and selfish.

My husband and I now always board the plane first, regardless of whether they call our aisle number to board, as we want to make sure we get the overhead compartment space above our seat. I can't tell you how many times we have got on the plane, only to find the person 5 aisles back has filled all the overhead bins with their hand luggage. Ugh, I am on a rant, but is there anyone else who is tired of this when they travel? Does anyone have any rec commendations on how to fix this problem? Or, should I just do what everyone else does and stash as much as I can above my head, and ultimately annoy the person next to me?

Ahhh the joys of travel!


Matt said...

I've noticed the same things more and more as well and my solution to the problem would be, instead of charging for checked bags, airlines should charge for carry-ons.

I'm not talking about anything obscene here but why not make the in cabin experience more pleasant by not having people hulk their big and numerous bags in there? Limit everyone to one carry on only and charge them $5 for it. Then you allow everyone to bring on one checked luggage item for free, a second for $25, a third for $50.

This way it encourages people to put stuff in their luggage. Sure people will complain about paying for carry ons, but we're already complaining about checked items so what's the difference?

Anyway, that's just my opinion.

Kris Nelson said...

It certainly seems like a no-win situation with the new fees and people trying to avoid them. To your point about trying to find enough overhead space for your bags, I 'd say that was already a decent sized issue before the checked bag fees. Now it's even worse.

We fly out of O'Hare in Chicago, and there were reports earlier in the year around our most recent flight that some airlines were starting to put reps near the security lines to be on the lookout for what you're describing and force people to check the extra bags (and pay, of course). That might have gotten scraped with layoffs or something.

I don't travel that often, but enough to relate. I actually like Matt's idea about charging for carry-on bags. Obviously, I'd prefer to pay less for a carry-on, and at least the comfort in knowing it won't get lost. I travel with a log of camera equipment and other tech gadgets that I don't trust in my checked bags. I'm not one of those 3 bag people, but it does certainly change my packing strategy for long flights to and from Maui.