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Congress looks at carry-on bag limits

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  June 19, 2009 11:11 AM

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Earlier this week, US Rep. Dan Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat, introduced a plan that would standardize the size of allowable carry-on bags.

Lipinski's bill would require the TSA to set up templates on luggage conveyor belts that would block pieces larger than 22 inches x 18 inches x 10 inches. Pieces that exceed the limit must be checked.

This threatens to create a nightmare for travelers. Currently the airlines set their own guidelines, and those rules vary greatly. American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines require bags to be no larger than 45 linear inches -- height plus width plus depth. AirTran sets the limit at a roomy 55 total inches. Virgin America allows 50 inches. Southwest and JetBlue's Embraer jets allow 24 inches x 16 inches x 10 inches (on its Airbus planes JetBlue sets a generous 26 x 18 x 12 standard).

The rules exclude child-safety seats, musical instruments, and devices to assist disabled passengers.

A spokesman for Lipinski says the congressman is concerned about clarity and fairness. With most airlines now charging for checked bags increasing numbers of passengers are trying to carry their luggage aboard. Besides the lack of standards for bag size, airlines have tended to be lax about enforcing their own rules. This has created a situation where passengers who board first get overhead storage -- and sometime more than their share -- leaving the last travelers to scramble for space of check bags, according to Nathaniel Zimmer, a Lipinski spokesman.

The bottom line for travelers is that it appears that many pieces that currently would be allowed likely will not fit the proposed requirement. Stay tuned.

Bloomberg News photo

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19 comments so far...
  1. All my carry-on always falls within the guidelines of carrier guidelines. I do get annoyed when someone try to sneak on on over size bag. Still, let's look at the root of the problem.

    The carriers and the TSA have made checking bags such a nightmare that most people would rather have a root canal. First many carriers impose fees under the guise of covering fuel costs. Even with lowered costs, these charges have remained.

    Despite claims of 99.99% of luggage delivered safely, everyone I know seems to be in the .01% with a lost or mishandled baggage story. The TSA plays the safety card as a reason to rifle through your luggage confiscating your possessions as they see fit. That is if the baggage handlers haven't already stolen your stuff and put it up on Ebay already.

    Posted by GoSox2009 June 19, 09 02:09 PM
  1. Is this the same Congress that couldn't put any teeth in it's consume rights laws for airline customers? Gee, which lobbying group might be behind this? It wouldn't be the airlines that are trying to nickel and dime it's customers for every last penny they have would it? Are they crying to congress saying "Customers aren't playing fair because now that we are charging them for every bag they check they are now carrying bigger bags so they don't have to check them. You need to pass a law that restricts this"

    Posted by Not buying this June 19, 09 02:13 PM
  1. Another example of the government getting way too involved in the policies of private corporations. Let the airlines set their own limits, it's their right and their problem. Airline policies of letting premier passengers board first assures that people who are frequent travelers (mostly business people) can get the bags on and get to their destinations as quickly as possible, and we all know that time is money. Enforcing bag sizes at TSA checkpoints is just going to make the nightmare that is post-9/11 security even more excruciating.

    Posted by Mike June 19, 09 02:37 PM
  1. I have to agree on the how many bags you can carry onto a plane part. My wife and I like to make weekend trips often. We only pack a small carry on each and maybe a small backpack. The carry on bag goes in the over head over our seats, and the backpack under one of our seats. More than once some guy(business traveler I think) carrying at least three bags(for just him) decides to move one of our bags(in the over head) to make room for his, starts moving them. I have in every case said do not touch my bags they do not belong to you. Most of them try to argue the point. I do not ever budge on the subject and say check a bag next time PERIOD. One guy was asked to leave the plane he made such a fuss about it.

    Posted by rjgjr082366 June 19, 09 03:18 PM
  1. I travel fairly frequently, and I usually check at least one bag. I have never had a problem. What I do have a problem with is those who do not check their bags.

    Despite airline limits, people regularly bring on far larger items, and the airline staff are reticent to comment as they will only incur wrath like the folks above spew. We live in a different world than 2001, but people want their saftey and convenience all in one bucket. It's just not that way.

    I agree with and support this in principle, but think it should be a regulation that the airlines must enforce, not the TSA. Otherwise you'll run into issues with foreign carriers that we don't have as much influence over.

    Posted by Andrew June 19, 09 03:59 PM
  1. Would be smarter for the airlines to charge a fee for carry-on luggage instead of checked bags. That would have eliminated the carry-on problem altogether.

    Posted by Diane June 19, 09 04:02 PM
  1. The solution to this problem is just to let passengers check their baggage free of charge again. Back in the day, I would prefer to travel with nothing but my purse (small purse!) as a carry-on - it was easier than lugging a carry-on suitcase around the airport at lay-overs. (I'll also admit that - knock on wood - my luggage has never been lost or stolen). This would also make those security lines shorter! I also agree that airlines need to enforce their policies. I saw a guy the other day get all bent out of shape when he was told he had to check his ridiculously large "carry-on" bag, because on the last leg of his flight they allowed it (However, the airline was going to check it free of charge for him).

    Posted by Ally June 19, 09 04:09 PM
  1. I'd love this. I'm so sick of the selfish, inconsiderate travelers who always bring more-carry on than allowed, and take all the overhead space. Enforce these rules, airlines! (this means you, United)

    Posted by SoxFanInIL June 19, 09 04:18 PM
  1. Get rid of the TSA wholesale, they don't make us safer. Cut the checking fees, and let us get on with our travel without extra legislation.

    Is someone trying to prove their reason for being hired somewhere with this crap?

    Posted by fahQGlobe June 19, 09 07:03 PM
  1. Instead of controlling this with a bunch of silly rules, all that is need is for each seat to come with a standard, fixed size compartment for carry on. Each passangeer can bring what they want, but it has to fit in this compartment.

    Posted by Tired traveler June 19, 09 08:11 PM
  1. Changing the size will do nothing to prevent the inconsiderate passenger who uses more carry on space that is allowed in the overhead bins.

    Posted by bostonrunner June 19, 09 08:35 PM
  1. More hassles we do not need. Checked baggage does not get the security that carry-on's get. I'm off the plane and nearly home before the first bags come off the carousel. Too slow!

    Posted by Joe June 19, 09 10:55 PM
  1. People carry so much stuff on because so many airlines charge for checked bags. If airlines went back to allowing 1 free checked bag, the problem would solve itself.

    I like Air Canada Jazz's checked bag policy. If you don't check any bags, you get $15 off.

    Posted by Liz June 22, 09 01:51 AM
  1. Letting the airlines set their own size limits makes it difficult for the traveler - I would have to have one size-approved bag for each airline I need or may want to travel for business & leisure. Consistent sizing would be helpful. That said airlines NEED to stop the space hogs with their carryon, additional personal bag and the "extras" such as pillows, tennis raquets, shopping bags full of stuff. Ladies - our pursues ARE CONSIDERED the additional allowable personal bag. It's not "in addition to" the 2 bag limit.

    Posted by rossigirl June 22, 09 09:24 AM
  1. Something must be done. I travel for business mainly and do not always get on the plane 1st., so, i can only hope that there will be room left for my overnight bag after people drag on steamer trunks and stuff the overheads. Let the airlines regulate oversize carry ons? Please! They can't even seem to manage stopping the guy in the back row from putting his stuff in the bin over the 1st. row!

    Posted by Greg June 22, 09 11:34 AM
  1. Doesn't congress have better things to do than worry about how big my carry on is? I'll never understand how the same idiots who are willing to spend $424,000 to figure out why guys don't like to use condoms think they know whats better for the Airlines than the Airlines do.

    Posted by John R June 22, 09 03:12 PM
  1. What I've found the most annoyinig since 9/11 is having to put shoes, filthy shoes into the bins where coats, etc. are stored. Do, one has to place a cashmere coat or some other nice piece of clothing in a bin where someone's dirty shoes have been placed. Why didn't they create SEPARATE bins for shoes. Totally disgusting, and it makes going through the security stations a real drag, especially for Japanese travelers and /or Buddhists who DO NOT wear shoes in the home.

    Posted by Againstourcustom June 22, 09 06:57 PM
  1. TSA - butt out. This is a customer service and convenience issue - NOT a safety issue.

    Posted by WVW in Newton June 22, 09 08:41 PM
  1. This bill is a turkey and needs to be put on the "do no fly" list. The concept is good but the bag size is huge (the size of my two-suiter). It should also include a provision to force the airlines to include the cost of one checked bag with each air fair. Why the exception for musical instruments ? Does the congressman play the base fiddle ?

    This bill has the potential to reduce TSA screening times and cost. It has the potential to reduce boarding times. It has the potential to increase flight cabin safety by reducing the overloading of the overhead bins. .... but not in its current form.

    Reject this turkey and give us something with teeth!

    Only once in 40 years of air travel has any airline lost my checked bags. Then they showed up three days later.

    Posted by Lewis Balentine October 25, 09 08:09 PM
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