Categorized | Airlines

Would fees discourage oversized carry-on bags?

Posted on 05 June 2012

In this May 21, 2008 file photo, a person is seen rolling luggage at Philadelphia International Airport,

The nation’s biggest airlines may be getting ready to draw the line on carry-on bags.


At least that’s the subject of today’s On The Road column in The New York Times, where author Joe Sharkey says airlines increasingly are considering fees as a way of discouraging passengers from attempting to bring oversize carry-on bags onto the plane.


Sharkey writes one big airline – Alaska Airlines – has already done so, “quietly” instituting a $25 fee for fliers who arrive at the gate with bags that exceed the carrier’s posted size limits (10 by 17 by 24 inches).


That comes as airline cabins have been inundated with bags of all sizes in recent years, something that’s largely a result of new fees for checked bags. Cost-conscious customers have attempted to skirt such fees by eschewing checked bags for carry-ons – many of which exceed airline allowances.


The result: an often-chaotic scene at boarding gates across the country. Fliers jockey for boarding position, hoping to be beat other passengers on board in an effort to claim precious overhead bin space.


The situation also has created a strain on gate agents, who now must contend with an increased number of bags to check at the gate because a plane’s bins have filled up. Other fliers simply show up with oversized bags, knowing they can likely avoid checked-luggage fees since oversize bags frequently are checked at the gate for free.


Spirit Airlines began to address those problems about two years ago, adding a fee for stowing bags in its overhead storage bins. There was a public outcry, but the fee remained. In fact, it will increase this fall. Additionally, Allegiant Air – a small but highly profitable leisure carrier – in April followed Spirit’s lead and became the second carrier to announce such a fee.


Now, Sharkey writes “Spirit’s success in discouraging carry-ons has evidently resonated with the bigger airlines, at least on the subject of passengers who now gate-check oversize bags free.”


Most big airlines that were willing to talk to Sharkey for his column acknowledged the carry-on bag situation has become an issue. Most were mum on exactly how they might address it going forward.


“We don’t have any immediate changes planned,” United spokesman Dave Messing told Sharkey.


However, Messing added: “We’re looking at how to prevent so many noncomplying bags from reaching the gate, as well as better ways to handle noncomplying bags that do reach the gate.”


Stay tuned …

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