Follow The New Carry-on Size Limit, or You're Grounded!
Earlier this year United Airlines, Delta Airlines, and American
Airlines implemented new carry-on size limits for their passengers.
They have gone so far as to install baggage "sizers" at departure
gates; if your bag doesn't fit in the sizer, you can't bring it into
the cabin. The new maximum size limits, including wheels and handles,
are a 9-inch depth, by 14-inch width, by 22-inch length. What was once
an overall limitation of 45 inches, is now so specific that it
disallows many standard carry-ons that passengers have been using for
In addition, dimensions for your personal item,
like a purse, laptop bag, or backpack cannot exceed a nine-inch depth,
by 10-inch width, by 17-inch length. No amount of complaining or
cajoling will get your bigger carry-on or personal item on board. Each
airlines still has its own list of items that you can bring aboard the
plane that don't count toward the limitations. For example, in addition
to your carry-on and personal item, you can bring reading materials,
cameras, child seats and diaper bags, airport food or purchases,
medical assistive devices, pet carriers, a coat or umbrella, and more
aboard United flights.
One explanation for the new rule change was that it was a
recent requirement by the FAA, which can't be right because neither
Southwest Airlines nor Jet Blue Airlines have adopted the stricter size
policies. On both airlines, passengers' carry-on bags can be 24 inches
long, 10 inches deep, and 16 inches wide. Yet, some airlines' employees
perpetuate this story, seemingly unaware that the new changes are the
result of company policy and not FAA regulations.
Another explanation is that the new size limitations help speed
up the boarding process, however, bags that don't meet the new criteria
now have to be gate-checked and paid for, which is time-consuming.
Passengers who are blindsided by the policy and have to retrieve
essentials from their bag before checking it at the gate also slow down
the boarding process. Carriers without checked baggage fees load
passengers much faster.
It isn't a space issue, since the new size restrictions are far
less than the overhead storage capacity on the planes. So, what is the
real reason for the smaller sizes and the gate-checked bag fees? Since
the new policies don't serve any real purposes for passengers, it
appears that their purpose is to serve the airlines via increased
revenues for mandatory gate-checked bags. In fact, United expects to
increase revenues by $700 million over the next four years between the
new carry-on checked bag fees and upselling passengers more leg room.
If your regular carry-on bag has recently been deemed oversized
by the airlines' newly enforced policies, non-compliance will cost you.
Passengers can expect to pay an additional $25 to check each
non-compliant bag. Those fees can add up for families blindsided by the
poorly disclosed regulations. Passengers can save both money and
headaches by complying with the tighter regulations.
Don't assume that because a bag is marketed as a carry-on that
it will meet the strict and specific size restrictions; United itself
sells a non-compliant carry-on. Bags marketed as international
carry-ons will meet the size requirements. On the high end, Briggs & Riley Baseline CX Domestic Carry-On Expandable Spinner
which sells for $469, is 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches. Since the
9-inch dimension is often what excludes passengers' bags, this carry-on
is well within the restrictions. The Travelpro Platinum Magna 20" Expandable
sells for $239 and meets the standards at 20 by 14 by 9 inches.
The more moderately priced CalPak Silverlake 20" Expandable Lightweight Carry-On
sells for under $60. This bag's hard shell feature, which comes in a
variety of colors, ensures that your bag always meets the size
requirements, since it is not expandable and cannot be overstuffed. The
dimensions are 20 inches, by 13.5 inches, by 9.2 inches. Baggage sizers
add an inch to each dimension, so the hard body 9.2 depth will easily
fit every time.
Carry-ons are obviously not going to be out of sight and tossed around
by baggage handlers, so don't be afraid to look into less expensive
options. Discount retailers like TJMaxx have compliant carry-on
options. Bring your tape measure to make sure your new bag will be
compliant. For example, CIAO has a hard shell carry-on that meets the
size restrictions for $40. Even on Amazon, it is difficult to find size
compliant carry-ons for under $60, so discount retailers are a good
The best advice for staying within the airlines' newly enforced size
restrictions is to think like a minimalist and become an organization
ninja. It takes skills and creativity to pack lighter and still fit
everything you need into a smaller bag. If you have trouble making the
tough decisions for what goes in the carry-on and what stays,
fortunately there are travelers who have packing down to a science and
they share their wisdom freely online.
John Lopinto from the Expert Flyer
suggests a neutral color palette in clothing for mix-and-match outfits
that cut down on the need for a new outfit each day, and limiting
shoes, remembering that you're wearing a pair. Stick with travel sized
liquids and keep in mind many hotels offer freebies; put them in a
quart-sized bag at the top of your carry-on. If you didn't go the safe
route and purchase a hard shell carry-on, don't overstuff your bag. He
suggests packing from the perimeter to the center and layering, big
items first, then filling in spaces with smaller items.
Louis Vuitton has a special section on their website called The Art of Packing
You choose a bag size and everything to be packed is laid out,
surrounding the bag. Items highlight, you click on the highlighted
item, and it is virtually packed in the bag right before your eyes. You
see not only where to place things in the bag, but the order in which
to pack them. There are also tutorials for folding particular items
correctly. The whole pleasant packing experience is accompanied by
ambient music in the background, elevating your creative packing to a
new level of Zen.
Alex, at Travel Fashion Girl offers free packing e-books on her website; Capsule Wardrobe Essentials: How to Pack Light Using a 10 Piece Packing List
and 10 Step Packing Guides. She has a link to Frugal First Class Travel that has several excellent packing lists including 'Real Life One Bag Travel: My Packing List."
Alex also has a link to Ever in Transit, which features carry-on only, ready for any climate packing lists for men
Besides showing you what to pack and how to pack it, she recommends
travel accessories and points you to the best places to shop. If all
that isn't enough, Alex is available to create a personalized packing
list for you depending on your purpose and destination. She asks that
you give her four weeks to do the research for the list.
Don't get your feelings hurt at the gate by trying to push the
boundaries of the newly enforced carry-on size rules. Pick a size
compliant carry-on and learn to make some packing adjustments to make
it work for you. It's better to be organized and regulation compliant
than having to repack and pay checked bag fees at the gate.
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