A smaller carryon bag that will fit under a plane seat...

I have read a few articles which say that as more people carryon and overhead space disappears, we might all consider carrying a smaller bag that can fit under the seat. It may turn out to be either this, or have your bag checked. My question is, what size would a bag have to be to allow us to feel good about it fitting down there AND still be able to allow us to carry everything? Which travel bags do you use, when you want it to fit under an airplane seat? What brands, which models? Would an RS bag fit? Does an Airboss fit? I love my MEI bag, but I don't believe it would fit under a seat, even if I use the outside compression straps.

Considering the way the newer airline rules are increasing the number of people carrrying on, this issue may hit us all very soon...

Thoughts and experiences??

Where are you Brad? We need your expertise!!

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

I travel with a 20 inch carryon and it fits perfectly under the seat in front of me. There's just enough room for me to slide my feet along both sides of it, so I can stretch out as well. It's not the most comfortable, but to me, it's better than checking my bag. It all comes down to a compromise....how little can you get away with bringing, and how much discomfort can you put up with, in return for the priviledge of walking off the plane and through customs without having to wait for your bags.

Posted by Roy
Plano, Tx, USA
44 posts

Norm, what are all the dimensions of your bag, and what brand is it? Length, width and height? I know that the RS bag is 22x14x9, and I couldn't get the one I used under a seat. Does anyone know if there are publised sizes for the area beneath the seats?

Maybe it's just me, but it always seemed that they vary even on the same plane. I would swear tht aisle seats have smaller sections under them than do window or center seats....

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

Roy...it's a no-name brand called "Jetliner," and I don't even recall where I got it. I usually go for the cheap bags at Wal-Mart, etc, use them for a few years, then toss them when they look like they're ready to go. This one measures 19 1/2 by 13 1/2 by 6 3/4 when full (including wheels)....and I make sure I don't overpack, to avoid straining the zippers. The aisle seats do, indeed have smaller sections, since they move the metal barrier inboard from the edge of the seat, presumeably so people don't trip on them as they walk by. But that's where I slide one of my feet when the bag is under the seat.

Posted by Lisa
Beautiful Austin TX
582 posts

I only travel with one backpack, and that fits perfectly under the seat. My backpack is an unknown brand and is lasting ten years so far. Many trips with it. I can pack very lightly because I don't bring a lot of beauty products. The natural look is more for me anyway, and that's a plus if you are traveling lightly.
Happy Travels!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

My bag will fit under my seat but I don't like to travel that way. Any carry-on bag should fit under your seat, it's what the dimensions are built around. Fitting and being comfortable are completely different. Fortunately, the international flights have more overhead bins than many of the smaller domestic flights.

For all flights, I get in line early to make sure I get an overhead bin. I put my bag as close to my seat as I can but never behind my seat because I'd be like a salmon trying to get my bag as people exit the plane.

On overseas flights I take a Rick Steves Civita daypack. It's at the top of my carryon when I board. It has all the things I'll need on the flight: fleece jacket, toiletries, water, snacks. I pull that out and put it under the seat in front of me.

My one pet peeve is people who put the bag in the overhead bin in a way that takes up all the room. Ideally, the handle on top should face you as you place the bag in bottom first then cozy it up to the next bag or side of the bin. Too many people put their bag in sideways in the middle of a bin that can hold three bags.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

I should have added that many people can't fit their carry-on in the overhead or under their seat because they pack them too full. By packing the outside pockets of a carryon a 9" thick bag can turn into 12 or 14". At that point it's no longer a carry-on bag and you may be forced to check it.

Posted by Roy
Plano, Tx, USA
44 posts

Brad,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I understand Skip's post, I watched a segment on CNN the other night on carrying on. The FAA has pointed out that by their design, there is not enough overhead room on any commercial aircraft in the U.S. for every passenger to have a carryon bag up there. The planes are designed for UP TO 70% of passengers to use overhead space. No more then that. As more people start carrying on to avoid the checked luggage charges this is probably going to impact a lot of us.

Brad, is the space under the seats really designed to take a "maximum size" carry on bag? The 45" bags? I am just curious, it never looked that big to me. What size if your bag? If it's not an RS, how close is it to a 22"x14"x9" bag the size of Ricks? I do think you're 100% right about people overpacking, but if a bag really measures at 22x14x9, not over stuffed at all, will it actually fit under the seat? I have no doubt about the 9" height, maybe a little about the space being 14" wide, but I think I am having trouble seeing the 22" length fitting in my mind's eye. Wouldn't the bag stick out between your feet?

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

Brad....perhaps U-S based airlines will finally get rid of those ridiculous "45 inch total measurement" regulations and think in three-dimensions....and stop allowing passengers to bring larger-than-permitted cases on board.

Posted by Bill
San Leandro, CA, USA
631 posts

One thing everyone should realize is that not all seats are built the same...the clearance for the under seat area differs by plane model and configuration...(often the electronics that feed the seat back displays take up space in under one or more seats). I use the RS classic back door (no wheels). Since it has soft sides, it can readily fit in many awkward spaces (I don't pack it full), including under most seats. Norm's observation about the 45" rule is right on target...it's not about the total cubes...it's about the total minimum firm outside dimensions.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

Mine is an ebags that is 22 x 14 x 9. It's not completely full when I travel so probably ends up being 22 x 14 x 6 when I use the compression straps. If it had to it could scrunch down to under 20" or less when I pull out the daypack.

I've weighed mine the last couple trips and was pleased to see that on two different trips, one business and one pleasure, the bag weighed almost exactly 15 lbs (including snacks but only empty water bottle).

The airlines use the linear measurement but then have a three dimensional stand near most gates that say your bag must fit in here or else be checked. If your bag fits in there it will also fit under the seat (where your feet are supposed to be). Fortunately by getting to the gate early and getting in line as soon as they start preboarding, I've always found a spot for my bag.

I expect as airlines start charging for checked bags two things will happen. First, more people are going to carry on (and they'll try to carry on as much as they can). Second, the attendents are going to be everyone's worst enemy because the airline will insist they enforce the rules strictly. Which means a lot of people are going to have more bad things to say about the airlines.

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

Brad...unfortunately, not all airlines use the 3-D stand at the gate and checkins, which is why there are so many odd-sized bags taking up so much space in the overhead bins. Rather than tell people the max. is 45 linear inches, they should specify the 3-D measurements to make sure these bags fit properly into the overhead bins....wheels at the bottom of the bin...handles to the bin door.

Posted by Flight Attendant
Niagara Wine Country, Canada
808 posts

Skip

I didn't see the CNN broadcast mentioned above. It is very true that Commercial Aircraft does not have enough Bin space to accomodate every Passenger's Carry On. We are often scrambling to make it all fit. Turf wars of a sort break out when there is no room directly above a Passenger's seat. Many people are unwilling to share and accept that this is shared space.

It is the responsibility of the Passenger Service Agents at the Check-in Counters to ensure that oversize bags are checked. Flight Crew are often very busy during the Boarding process. We don't generally concern ourselves with a bag that is an incher over size unless it does not securely fit into the Overhead bin or is obviously overweight. Some passengers try to "sneak" these bags on by not presenting them at the counter and leave them with a non-travelling friend until they go through security. It's always easy to spot those who do this as those Carry On's will not have the appropriate sticker on them.
And if someone does this, don't ask us to stow your bag b/c it is too heavy for you. If it's that overweight, you will be required to check it last minute and that's a hassle for everyone.

If you don't want to worry about size...carry a 17incher. Samsonite and Travel Pro make them. Some Airlines require Flight Crew to carry this size for that reason. We Dead Head all over the world on various Airlines and our one bag must fit them all.

A 17incher is small but packed light and right it can work for us hard core carry on only travellers as well. I've done it for about 10 years now, 5 day layovers, three weeks a month abroad. Probably most of us here will want the largest allowable bag possible.

I'm not a fan of cheaper luggage which needs replacing every few years. I buy quality like "Travel Pro Crew6". It costs about the same when you consider how many bags you'd buy in ten years. Plus, it's better quality with a good warrenty.

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
981 posts

Re the Airboss--no it won't fit under a seat. But the smaller Tom Bihn Western Flyer almost always will. It's 18 by 12 by 7 inches and is tough as nails.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

Norm,

Yes, the 3D bins are at some gates and not at others. I think they would be better off specifying the maximum measurements rather than linear inches and requiring people to show their bag can fit before getting on the plane. It's a shame when the attendents have to waste time during boarding trying to squeeze oversize bags onto the plane.

Other than checking at the gate, I don't know how to keep people from overstuffing their bag. A lot of people think if they bought a bag that is within the linear inch limit, they can put as much as they want in it. When I pack I'm always asking myself if I can live with less because I know I don't want to lug around more than I absolutely need. Too many people pack thinking, "What is the most I can get in this bag?" and are proud that it's filled to the brim (and beyond).

Posted by Gela
San Jose, CA, USA
420 posts

I'd like to add a few comments to this great thread. When traveling with carryon only, I always stress about finding room in the overhead bins. I too want to be able to take a bag that could fit under my seat of necessary.

I once brought my cat on board. The carrier had to fit under the seat. As everyone has commented, it will be the "height" that will be the deciding factor on whether it will fit under the seat. The cat carrier (which fits under any airline seat) measures 17"x12"x7.5"H. So, I believe it is safe to say that if you bag doesn't exceed 8 inches when lying on down, you should be ok.

Also, I sit on the isle on the right side of the plane (lefty wanting her elbow to not knock into passengers). On 767s, the H seat contains equipment boxes under the seat so when I stick my purse under there, there's barely room for my feet.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

Sounds like the Tom Bihn Western Flyer will do the job..its: 18 x 12 x 7

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11276 posts

In addition to a loosely packed slightly-less-than regulation sized carryon (Campmor), I also carry one personal item, a less than 3# notebook computer in a 12"x10"x3" case (actually, the case could fit three of the computers - the computer's really tiny - but that's the smallest case I could find. Anyway, I have never had problems fitting the computer under the seat, but I have often found that space is unavailable for anything larger. Some sort of big box under there.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11276 posts

I got it! If the airlines only have room for 70% of the people to carry on at the current size, then we just make the bag limit 70% of the current size - and strictly enforce it. Current regulation size, 21"x16"x8" = 45" is 2688 in³. 70% of that volume would be 1882 in³ - 18"13"8" = 1872 in³. So if the airlines just strictly limit carryon size to 18x13x8, we'll all be fine.

Posted by Cristina
Northern, Italy
208 posts

I was just on 2 compleatly full flights and as we watched people get on the plane and fill the overheads, there were a few half empty overheads when the FA closed them up for take off. I don't think this is due to there being enough room for everyone to put a bag up there, but more that there were people who didn't have a bag up there.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

That's true, Christina. I think many of us forget that not everyone "travels light." I don't know how many of my friends think I'm crazy traveling with just one carry-on...especially when going on vacation to Europe. They always take full size suitcases (which are checked) and only a small bag on the plane.

I have a friend who's family of 5 recently went to London and bragged how they were going to take the tube from LHR--with full size suitcases. They did and refused to complain about it. And, their hotel was 4 blocks from the tube station.

So, as long as the airlines get stricter about current carry-on size limits, we should be okay. And remember, on international flights, no one is charging for the first bag. Only domestic trips.

Posted by Skip
Dallas, Texas, USA
82 posts

Frank, those are GREAT points! I hadn't thought about it that way, I often forget that a lot of people don't try (or even consider) traveling the way we do.

Thanks!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11276 posts

"And remember, on international flights, no one is charging for the first bag."

Not yet, anyway.

But the real problem with this is that there are not always non-stop flights available to Europe. Of my six trips to Europe this century, only two have been non-stop. On the other four flights I have had to change in an eastern US city. So the rules as to allowable carry-on weight on domestic flights do affect international travelers. If the domestic baggage rules require me to check my bag on the first leg, am I then going to go out of security in, say Detroit, collect my bag from the carousel, and go back through security with it so I can carry it on? Will I even have time?

Posted by Liz
Seattle, WA
1311 posts

Lee, my understanding was that if it's all on one ticket, it would be considered an international flight even if it stops in a U.S. city first? Therefore, it would not be subject to the fee.

Otherwise, I think we could see an increase in people preferring direct-to-London (or Paris) flights and then changing airlines in Europe.

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
981 posts

Lee, so far the policy is that, as long as your international flight doesn't involve a break in the journey, you won't be charged for checking your bag on the first domestic leg. Of course, this is subject to change...

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

If domestic airlines start changing their carry-on rules to smaller and smaller bags, they are going to have to bear the wrath of the business FF. They are the domestic cash machine for airlines. If they are suddenly told that they have to go out and buy smaller bags, or pay to check their bags--after buying domestic tickets of over $1000, you will see revolts in the making. (Most of them don't buy $30 bags. They tend to spend $200+ of their own money.)

Airlines are cutting back every way they can. Charging for checked bags, charging for food, no more movies on domestic flights, and so on. They are also putting their people near the security checkpoints and at the gates to make sure people don't go over the current carry-on guidelines.

What they would probably do is not cut back on size, but on weight. Most domestic airlines allow carry-on of 40 pounds. That's more than double most European airlines. Weight is what causes the plane to burn more fuel, not size. So, carry-on weight limits would make more sense than size limits.

I predict that the true next step for airlines is continuing the lessening of number of flights. With less supply, the demand will go up as will ticket prices. There will be more restrictions on days of travel. (United just started the Saturday night stay rule once again. I think others will follow.) You will also see the FF mileage requirements go up.

Flying used to be the more expensive choice for travelers. Then, with deregulation came discount airlines and planes became Greyhound buses with wings. I believe we will now go back to the days of more expensive flights with serious restrictions on the cheap tickets. Look for consolidation and partnerships of more and more airlines. And don't expect things to get better anytime soon.

Posted by Angela
Meridian, Idaho, USA
38 posts

Hi Skip -

I'm not sure of the sizes but, I know when I went to Turkey in 2006 - there was not enough room in the overhead for my carryon - so the flight attendant snatched it from my hands and insisted that it be checked. It really happened that fast. I was so nervous to do this because I had no locks on my bag and I had my camera and other valuables in it. Fortunately, I was able to convince them to send it to Amsterdam where I transferred instead of straight through to Istanbul.

I remember waiting nervously at the baggage claim in Amsterdam - I waited and waited and asked the attendants, then waited some more. My bag was the last one, very last bag to come through.....when I got to Istanbul to take a shower - my hair conditioner was gone...oh well - they could have taken my camera. Go figure.

So, just be prepared that you may have to check anything you take onboard - make sure it is locked and ready to go underneath. Another tip - book seats near the rear of the plane - then you are one of the first to board - thus more overhead room.

I'm going to Europe in September. 57 days to be exact (21 days in Europe through the back door)....can't wait -

Good luck to you and be safe,
Angela

Posted by RHODA
PHILADELPHIA, PA
17 posts

I bought a TRAVELON UNDER THE SEAT. It rolls and it is great. It also rolls up the aisles easily withought having to pick it up to carry on. I travel alone and I am short so I can not put a suitcase above my head in the bin. I found this works perfectly. I traveled on Brit Air and it fit right under the seat in front of me.

Posted by sasha
new york
55 posts

well for a daypack sort of thing, consider north face, they hold up so well.