You’re used to seeing Ned Levi’s column here on Monday, but today it gets a new name: Getting Around. Ned will explore the rules, regulations and policies that make travel better — and worse — and will offer his expert insights into having a better trip.
All the airlines have policies limiting carry-on baggage size. Unfortunately, far too many airlines don’t enforce the limits at all, while other airlines seriously enforce carry-on limits which, in my opinion, are far too restrictive.
Considering the rough way baggage is often handled by airlines, and the amount of luggage delayed, lost or damaged, the need for certain items to be carried in carry-on baggage is significant. Valuables, breakables, medications, a change of clothes, and toiletries, in my opinion, are essential to be packed in carry-on baggage for any air traveler.
In the US, for example, passengers are allowed a full-sized carry-on and a personal item. No bag can exceed a total linear length of more than 45 inches (115 cm) and a weight of 40 pounds (18kg).
I typically use a roller carry-on, plus a medium backpack which can fit under the seat in front of me. Both meet those specifications. There are more than a few airlines outside the US, such as LAN in South America, which limit carry-ons to just 17 pounds (8kg). My bags typically weigh more than that.
Two questions immediately come to my mind. First, do air passengers need oversize carry-on baggage to carry their essential items? In my opinion, the answer is generally no, as long as passengers are allowed one full-size carry-on, and a reasonably sized personal item, but based on their behavior, many passengers don’t agree.
Second, do air passengers need overweight carry-on baggage to carry their essentials? In my opinion, the answer is sometimes we do. Some airlines, even though flying full-size planes, have unnecessarily restrictive weight limits which make carrying all essentials impossible.
I’ve seen passengers carry large duffels into plane cabins, roller carry-ons which barely fit in the overhead bin sideways (forget straight in), and others with more than two carry-ons. Due to the oversize and extra bags brought on board by passengers, I’ve seen other passengers told to gate check their carry-ons, because the overhead bins were already filled, with fewer than ¾ of the flight’s passengers already on board. Many of those large bags are hard to handle and difficult to stuff in the overhead bin. Too often, “shoe-horning” carry-ons in the overhead bin waste lots of time, slows boarding, and delays flights from leaving the gate.
Unnecessarily restrictive weight limits can force passengers to pack belongings into their checked luggage which should be in their carry-ons. I have personally seen this lead to passengers retrieving their luggage from the carousel only to find cameras and laptop computers, etc., missing or broken. I understand highly restrictive weight limits on small propeller driven aircraft, but not on full-size commercial jets.
The airlines need to enforce their size limitations and have reasonable weight restrictions to ensure all passengers can bring their carry-ons on board, not just the ones boarding first. If that happens, passengers will stop flaunting the rules.
Airlines with unnecessarily restrictive weight limitations need to change them to allow passengers to bring their important valuables, breakables, and other essentials in their carry-ons.
If you’re stymied by unnecessarily restrictive carry-on weight limits on your flight, I suggest you join me in using a photographer’s vest to act as your extra carry-on, and stuff its many pockets with your other items, then put it in the overhead bin after boarding for your comfort.