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Overstuffed carry-on bags getting more scrutiny

By Samantha Bomkamp

AP Airlines Writer

LAST UPDATED: 05:22 a.m. HST, Dec 15, 2011


NEW YORK >> Before you board a flight this holiday season, think twice about stuffing that carry-on full of gifts to avoid a checked bag fee. You might get charged anyway.

Already armed with an exhaustive list of checked bag fees, some airlines are stepping up their enforcement of weight limits for carry-ons. This may lead to aggravation if an airline agent weighs your bag at the gate and then charges you.

Although weight limits for carry-on bags are mostly on international flights, George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog.com says charges on domestic flights may not be far behind.

One practical reason for weight restrictions is that they limit an airline's liability for accidents, such as when a heavy bag falls from an overhead bin and hits someone. But they're also — you guessed it — a way for carriers to generate more fee income. Under congressional pressure, major U.S. airlines vowed earlier this year not to charge fees for carry-on bags. But they haven't ruled out widening their restrictions on the weight of those bags.

Although there are practical restrictions on their size, none of the major U.S. airlines puts a cap on the weight of a carry-on bag on domestic flights — but several do on international flights. United, for example, sets a 44-pound limit for coach passengers flying within Asia or the Middle East. American Airlines puts a 50-pound limit on carry-on bags for trips to and from the Caribbean and Latin America. The airlines don't charge for the first bag on those routes, but you may get stung if your carry-on tops a limit and you've already checked one bag. A second checked bag fee could run as much as $60 or $70.

Big international airlines, such as British Airways and Lufthansa, have more widespread weight limits on carry-on luggage. Caps can range from as little as 18 pounds to as much as 50. But most of those airlines also let passengers check one bag for free, lessening the chance that passengers will get stuck paying an unexpected fee.

There are some airlines, however, that have a weight restriction on carry-ons and charge for a first checked bag. Hawaiian Airlines, which flies to the Western U.S. and plans to start flights to New York in June, sets a maximum carry-on weight at 25 pounds. It charges $25 for a first checked bag for flights to and from North America.

While some weight limits seem high, Hobica notes that a bag full of heavy electronics can quickly add up.

Before U.S. airlines would consider implementing weight limits, they'd have to balance the possible backlash: An irate passenger at the gate, holding up the plane's departure. But other airlines have already put systems in place, including portable bag scales, to catch heavy bags at the gate. So it might not take long for these methods to catch on.

And especially during the holidays, airlines will ask passengers to check more bags as a way to clear the cabin — even if your bags aren't overweight. They usually won't charge a fee for this last-minute switch up, but travelers should heed this advice so they can comply with airlines' requests, while keeping their valuables within reach.

That means you should pack valuables in a smaller bag (like a purse or even a large Ziploc bag) within a carry-on. That way, if you have to check your bag, you can grab your important items and keep them with you on the flight. This will especially pay off if your checked bag is lost or stolen.

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FrankieT wrote:
I have to agree, overweight carry on bags is a problem, I have seen overweight bags fall from the overhead when removing and strike a passenger on the head. It is a safe thing to do, restrict overweight large carry on bags.
on December 15,2011 | 04:59AM
Bakerman wrote:
Again, some cabins are of older design, with high small bins and compartments that don't efficiently house the bags. I've had to bench press my bag over my head practically on my tippytoes to get it in the compartment.
on December 15,2011 | 08:50AM
cls8kw wrote:
If you can't lift your carry-on to place it in the overhead, you shouldn't bring it into the cabin. I've seen so many people that can't even lift their bag to place it in the overhead storage. Not to mention that many times it's too big to fit anyway.
on December 15,2011 | 05:13AM
Anonymous wrote:
I agree
on December 15,2011 | 05:58AM
Bakerman wrote:
Maybe that's something that the airlines should post about the baggage limits. "must be able to lift the bag over your head" BTW, where's the chivalry? I'm petit and female, and it's dicey to get that bag in the overhead. Rarely does anyone offer to help
on December 15,2011 | 09:23AM
heres2u wrote:
well, you should just check your bag in. If you can't lift it, you shouldn't bring it on the airplane. Don't expect someone else to help you with your heavy baggage. It's not chivalry that's missing, it's common sense.
on December 15,2011 | 09:28AM
Bakerman wrote:
I research my flights, but they do not tell you how high the compartments are And I can still lift my own bags, thank you. I travel often, and usually without problem, but this set of flights from Honolulu surprised me with an old design with really high compartments that I could barely reach even without a bag in my hands. It's just interesting to see people inches away just watching others put their bags in the compartments, with or without a struggle. Common sense is helping someone out so everyone can get seated and depart on time.
on December 15,2011 | 10:23AM
cojef wrote:
You are right, many times have I helped a petite little lady place her bag in the overhead bin. Ther are short and tall people, so some cannot reach the bins. A weight limit of say 25# is the most eqitable. I always have a checked bag and a carry-on, so pay $25 to Hawaiian.
on December 15,2011 | 12:56PM
scooters wrote:
Airlines just don't enforce the size limits on the carry on baggage. They display a limit size by the boarding area and tell you that it must fit within the "size measuring device" plus you'll see idiots with a wheeled suitcase,laptop case, a back pack and then try to put all of that in the overhead bin. Airlines NEED to really ENFORCE the one carry on rule.
on December 15,2011 | 06:17AM
Wailuku wrote:
Yes, I TOTALLY agree. That measuring frame at the gate is there for a reason, but the airlines don't use it. This is a safety issue, but as with everything else, someone has to get seriously injured from a falling bag resulting in a lawsuit against the airline, for rules to be enforced.
on December 15,2011 | 07:23AM
Bakerman wrote:
The major airlines usually allow 1 carry on, and 1 personal item. So if I travel w/ out checked baggage, it's my carry on, and my back pack which I stuff my smallish purse in when boarding. It's legit
on December 15,2011 | 09:04AM
kainalu wrote:
It's about time. Aggravating when you're carry-ons don't fit in the bin because other meatheads brought in more carry-ons than they're suppposed to, and their over-sized to boot.
on December 15,2011 | 07:02AM
jusmetwocents wrote:
Has anyone ever seen a gate agent require people to use the "carry on bag size check" model that sits by every gate at every airport in the US? I know I travel for a living and I've never once seen a gate agent use that device.
on December 15,2011 | 07:11AM
Anonymous wrote:
I did see a Delta gate agent walk thru the waiting area and tell passengers they would have to check their baggage.
on December 15,2011 | 07:14AM
Bakerman wrote:
Yes. It was hilarious. This lady had to take everything out of the bag's pockets to get it to fit in the frame, was really happy, then then she couldn't get it out. I was boarding, so I don't know what happened after that
on December 15,2011 | 09:08AM
MANDA wrote:
Better than weight limits would be enforcement of size limits. Huge carry-on bags are routinely overlooked, so that if you're not in the first seating group or two, you will have trouble finding any overhead bin space.
on December 15,2011 | 07:12AM
billso wrote:
Good news! I hate seeing passengers struggle into an airplane with heavy bags.
on December 15,2011 | 07:42AM
mahoetanaka wrote:
Various airports are now have "carry-on" bags checked at the security checkpoints. If the bag cannot fit in the framed carrier - while you are presenting your ID to get thru security, you are told to go back to the counter and check the bag in, because it will not be able to go thru security. I agree, many a times you will see passengers unable to lift their own carry on bag to place in the overhead bin. Or, you will see passengers with a purse, a backpack and a suitcase. Auwe! By the time the plane is 3/4 full, there is NO overhead bin space.
on December 15,2011 | 08:30AM
Bakerman wrote:
The luggage companies need to be more truthful in their dimensions, too. I bought a "carry on" this year, after carefully checking the listed dimensions to make sure it would fit the requirements. Once home, the tag inside the bag said the dimensions were of the INTERIOR of the bag, minus the wheels and handles. What good is that? Then I flew a plane from HI that had an older design style cabin, and the compartments were way too small for the carry ons. These companies are not helping their passengers. The point is, It's not only the passenger's fault.
on December 15,2011 | 08:59AM
medigogo wrote:
People need to get to the root of the problem. Passengers is not the problem. It's the airlines. By imposing excessive baggage fees, you'll definitely see more and heavier carry-ons. And few airlines agents want to strictly enforce the rules and antagonize the passengers. You can do it once a while, but not all the time. Or you'll hate your job so much and quit. The airlines should know that. More carry-ons, over-sized or over-weighed or not, will delay security check process, require more TSA agents, cause delays in departure when re-check-in is needed, cause congestion in flights, cause carry-on space contention, and cause passenger dissatisfaction. More importantly, it's a safety hazard when the weight should've been put to the bottom of the plane but now gets shifted to the upper cabin. Airlines should give the first bag free, or Congress should act upon it. Where are the Congress folks when we need them? I routinely fly and see few other countries airlines doing this nickle and dime thing to their passengers. I also want to complain on US airlines food service. It's definitely worse than many third world countries. What a shame, airline people!
on December 15,2011 | 09:09AM
moonieman wrote:
What annoys me the most is that many of these people with carry on bags will place them in bins that are supposedly for other passengers. Many will purposely place their bags in the bins at the front of the plane and when the people occupying those seats at the front of the plane are allowed to board, the bins above their seats have already been stuffed with bags from inconsiderate passengers sitting at the rear of the plane. I don't mind the carry on bags but the rude people placing them elsewhere is something I can live without...in fact it is frustrating not to have a space above your seat.
on December 15,2011 | 09:14AM
shshimizu wrote:
I've seem pasengers attempt to fit bags that are not carryons into upper compartments! Extremely dangerous, I've witnessed an incident where a seated passenger was nearly knocked out when a huge heavy bag came crashing down on her as the idiot tried to ram a large suitcase it into a space that too small. All airlines should enforce their carryon policies strictly, and charge passengers that try to avoid paying for checked bags double what it would have cost them. That would end all these passenger from trying to go around the system. Plus we would be able to depart on time, and deplane easily. Ever been stuck behind idiots with suitcases ramed into an overhead compartment?!
on December 15,2011 | 10:19AM
9ronboz wrote:
set a reasonable average weight limit for passengers and pay additional air fare for excess weight. carry on bag weight will then be less of an issue.
on December 15,2011 | 10:47AM
TheKagawas wrote:
They should just make the holes for the TSA screening machines smaller. If a bag can't fit into the x-ray machine then it won't fit in the overhead. That a good time to turn them around and send them back to the ticketing agent to check the bag.
on December 15,2011 | 01:03PM
alohacharlie wrote:
I fly often and am typing this from Portland, OR. I fly Hawaiian often. I fly to, and in, Europe every summer. I took my first flight in 1946. I have only seen that "sizing rack" at the gate used one time and it was by Hawaiian in Seattle and it was my carryon that was put into the rack. It was too fat to fit all the way down. I was allowed to take some stuff out of the outside pocket and put that stuff into my computer bag. My carryon then fit into the rack just fine. Due to the increase in baggage fees, especially for the first checked bag, I have seen so many more items brought into the aircraft than ever before. My complaints, other than airlines not using the "rack" is not being able to find space in an overhead bin when I am seated towards the front of economy section and board after all the folks sitting in the rear. I have witnessed way too many folks stop and put their carryons into the first available bin and then proceed on back to their seat. I have sent suggestions to several airlines that the overhead bins be assigned to the row of seats that they are over but have never received a positive reply. Hawaiian has started boarding the emergency exit row seat passengers right after the First Class and the Very Frequent Flyers and the disable and the families with young children so that those emergency row passengers get a shot at finding an empty overhead bin due to the fact that they are not allowed to have items on the floor of an emergency row. Much appreciated Hawaiian.
on December 16,2011 | 08:32AM
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