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When is a bag not a legal bag?

from the WSJ

Today’s riddle: When is 22 inches not 22 inches?

On a plane.

I’ve traveled for many years with a Travelpro 22-inch rollaboard bag. When one finally wore out, I replaced it with the same 22-inch rollaboard bag. Travelpro markets it as compliant with airline size limits, most of which restrict bags to 22 inches in length. The bag slides easily into most any overhead bin.

But when British Airways had a sizing box at a gate for a recent flight and made all passengers put their bag in the box, mine didn’t fit and had to be checked. The same fate befell many bags on that flight.

A few weeks later on an American Airlines flight leaving Phoenix, the same thing: Gate agents were telling passengers to put their carry-ons in the bag sizer as they headed for the plane. Many typical, well-traveled bags didn’t fit.

Travelpro and other luggage makers say the luggage industry practice in the U.S. is to size bags by the dimensions of the packing area without counting wheels and handles. But airlines count wheels and handles and have grown more strict about enforcing their rules.

Posted by
518 posts

Wow, this is the first time I've heard of airlines actually checking bag sizes at the gate. I've flown in/out many places and on diff airlines and have never seen them do this. As a result people end up boarding with all kinds of things.

Posted by
8656 posts

phred that was an interesting article. Its a shame that the airline industry and the luggage industry aren't on the same page. One thing they didn't mention is that foreign carriers limits are in metric dimensions, and sometimes that is not insignificant difference when converting.

For many of us, its the connecting flights, on smaller regional jets, that screw things up, as even bags that would fit the sizers, have to be gate checked, or in some cases, checked through.

KC, yes I have seen this pretty often in the last few years. But not enough to stop people bringing on enormous multiple bags and usually getting away with it.

Posted by
6 posts

22", if not counting wheels, is for the interior dimension. Airlines are getting pissy about carryon bags. Their dimension is outside dimension.

I've lately been shopping for a carryon bag. Knowing what to come, I zeroed in on 20" bags.

European lines, especially the inexpensive domestic carriers, are even more strict. Not only size matters, weight, too. You can't carry a kitchen sink just because it fits into the carryon size bag. If the weight is over the limit (each airline is different), the bag needs to be checked.

On the up side, all these rules only make people pack light. Also, when they buy stuff, they ship them home more and more often.

Posted by
3994 posts

We just came back from some extensive trips, different airlines in ~3 weeks (BA, AC, DELTA and AA). There were a couple of times when gate agents told people to put their bags in the sizers and then made them check them. Many times they drug the sizers over to the front of the desk and reminded people to be sure their bags would fit but didn't force anyone to put their bags in the sizers.

On the domestic trip we just took we purchased a new spinner bag and got rid of an older, heavier style. So yesterday at the gate in Richmond VA when no one else was around I put my 22" bag in the sizer and saw that the wheels definitely stick out beyond the sizer. Only the body of the bag falls within the "acceptable" zone. I put my husband's new 21" bag in the sizer and it perfectly fit into the acceptable zone, wheels and handle included. My husband at first wasn't too happy to have a smaller bag when we already pack so light (we had been traveling from July 7- August 19 with 22" bags). But I'm convinced that this is the way we are going to have to go as the airlines are trying to squeeze more revenue out of us by charging for checked bags, at least on domestic flights.

Posted by
7465 posts

Two years ago when I replaced my suitcase, I literally took a tape measure to check my short list at the stores. Several of the on-line dimensions weren't correct when measuring a suitcase from floor to top-of-handle, for instance.

I just returned from Sydney on Delta and didn't see any enforcement of sizes at either Sydney or LA.

Posted by
4600 posts

If this subject interests you, I encourage you to read the entire article. Especially the comments! Lots of road warriors very upset about lax and/or arbitrary enforcement of these regs.

The other point the article makes is that they discovered that United added an inch to each dimension on their measuring box as a courtesy. The other airlines were a strict 22. The head of Travelpros who had been bragging that they use the United box as their standard was taken aback to learn of this.

Posted by
5385 posts

Read an article somewhere this week where the author had seen more than one person on a flight being asked to put the bag in the sizer and they squeeze it in but then couldn't easily get it out again.

Posted by
8656 posts

The airlines should take one of their overhead bins out of a plane and use that as their sizer. If it won't fit wheels in, send it down the chute.

Posted by
1068 posts

I didn't see the original article listed in the OP. Here is a link to it: Luggage

Posted by
3994 posts

My 22" (not including wheels evidently!) bag fit in all of the larger plane's overhead bins just fine and in the correct orientation. Now on the 2 regional jets that we took in this series of flights over the past several weeks, they were a gate check for everyone...

The tiniest plane I've ever boarded was on the flight from Richmond VA to Chicago. I have never felt such clostropobia in my life.

Posted by
5837 posts

Airline sizing boxes/frames are go/no-go gages. If it fit it goes onboard, if it doesn't fit it needs to be checked. As more passengers board with carry-on baggage overhead compartments capacity because scarce slowing down the boarding and seating process. Oversized baggage makes the problem worst when bags do not fit long dimension in. Hence the reason for checking the out to out dimensions.

If your wheelie is an inch to long extending beyond the case, the flight attendant will need to break off your spinner wheels to close the overhead door. Checking out to out dimensions makes sense. If you have to store a carry-on bag with long dimension parallel to the aisle your bag is taking up more than your fair share.

Posted by
399 posts

Acceptable bag sizes vary with the airline. They are not all the same. Each airline makes its own rules, not the baggage manufacturers. And, like their frequent flier programs, they can change the rules anytime they want to, usually for the worse.

The tragedy of this is that the airlines have put their customers in open competition with each other for carry on space. One very large American airline even states this quite openly when it tells customers who have paid extra that they "won't have to compete with other passengers for overhead space." They seem to have the 'Black Friday at the Mega-Box store" attitude.

Posted by
115 posts

Lufthansa's website says 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 inches for a carry on. My old bag, with which I have never flown on Lufthansa, is 23.5 (if you measure the propping legs or wheels) x 14.5 x 8. If you only measure the outside of the case, the first measurement is 21 inches, without the wheels. Do I need to buy a new bag? Ann.

Posted by
3263 posts

It's interesting that it took the airlines so long to begin enforcing this rule. 5+ years ago I searched for a 22" carryon which included the wheels and handle as I had erroneously assumed RS was that bag (I love my RS 20", btw, but he was late to the game). I used to go luggage shopping with a tape measure and was disappointed with the false advertising/measurements listed on bags. I didn't understand why other people could carry this bag on…I tend to follow these types of rules and am surprised when others don't. Anyway, glad to see they will be enforcing this rule as people have been carrying too much on the plane for too long, IMO only. As many people noticed, I'm all for carryon size for maneuverability, but check your main bag regardless when ever possible. It's just stuff. Happy rules are enforced (until civil disobedience is necessary, LOL). Wray

Posted by
518 posts

It would be great if airlines across the board would consistently do carry-on size checks tat the gate. It's just amazing what some people get away with. I have seen, and no exaggeration here, people stroll on board with: 1.) a typical 21"-22" roller and 2.) a completely full backpack (the regular size ones you'd use for school) and 3.) a lap top case (not a laptop "sleeve" but ones with extra pockets, and a handle, literally a separate piece of luggage in its own right) and 4.) a GIANT hand bag (no, not a small purse, but those enormous tote-type hand bags that you can put a thanksgiving turkey in) and 5.) a full bag of souvenir shopping they just purchased in the terminal (like a full grocery sized bag, not just small paper bag with a a couple of magnets and pens). I think people have a tendency to believe that if it's not "luggage" (i.e., with wheels, handle, etc.) that it doesn't really count towards your carry-on limit.

Posted by
1068 posts

I've seen people bring guitar cases on board. Not sure that qualifies as luggage?

Posted by
5837 posts

...seen people bring guitar cases on board.

Celloist have to buy a seat for their cello if they want it to travel in the cabin. Presumably the cello gets the window seat. Yo Yo Ma's cello flies first class. (Cellos are too big to fit in the overhead compartment.)

Posted by
1068 posts

If I made what Yo-yo Ma does I'd probably rent the whole first class. I haven't seen a guitar sitting on a seat in economy though. Just another example of inconsistent policy enforcement by airlines.

Posted by
1221 posts

There are FAA rules about allowing guitars and other stringed instruments in cabin storage bins following a few high profile complaints about airlines mangling $10,000+ guitars that had been required to be checked baggage by the airline.

http://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-issues-final-rule-regarding-air-travel-musical

As for the sizers, I see them occasionally when the flight is on a smaller regional jet, the airline knows that all flights that day were sold to 105% of capacity or both of the above. And when they're out, the gate agents typically just waive me and my huge shoulder/duffle bag right through, even though it's a bigger bag than a lot of the wheelie bags that they make people put in the sizers.

Posted by
19170 posts

"As for the sizers, I see them occasionally when the flight is on a smaller regional jet"

United was using a sizer last year in San Fran (2x) at gates for full sized planes and announcing that carryon bags had to fit in them. However, they were not enforcing it. Many people with obviously oversized bags just ignored it.

A year earlier, on a regional jet, USAir required all wheeled bags to be gate-checked.

Posted by
4600 posts

It's definitely YMMV, so be prepared to check your bag on short notice (meaning you take out everything of value, necessary and irreplaceable)

Posted by
8293 posts

.... and yet, some people have had to check their bags and the world did not come to a end. Gottbedanken.

Posted by
4600 posts

People check bags all the time (myself included), but airlines charge for that. They do not charge if you drag your earthly possessions into the cabin and try to cram them into the overhead. That's the real problem, it's backwards.

Posted by
5837 posts

...airlines charge for that.

All my overseas international economy flights have had a first bag free checked baggage allowance. Bag limit is typically 62 Lin inches and 50 pounds. These flights gave all been on legacy carriers.

I understand that some discount carriers have ala carte pricing. So far toilets are still free.

http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/baggage/before-your-trip/checked.html#guidelines

http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/baggage/checked-baggage.jsp