Should the Government Regulate Carry-On Bag Size?


A new bill in the House of Representatives would standardize carry-on size across carriers at 22 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches. Pieces that exceed these lengths would be blocked at security and would need to be checked in.

While the bill is aimed at cutting down on overhead bin abuse, the process of standardization would be a painful one. Airlines set their own guidelines, and those guidelines can vary considerably. Further, many airlines' restrictions (including JetBlue and Southwest) match the total linear measurement proposed in the bill (50 inches) but use different individual measurements (24 inches x 16 inches x 10 inches). Most legacy carriers have already shrunk their maximum carry-on size below the size recommended in the bill.

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Brett Snyder at The Cranky Flier blog sums up the potential boondoggle thusly: "So let's review exactly what this policy would do. It would let the legacies and Frontier continue to keep their policies of allowing less than 50 inches. Even though Southwest and others have a 50 inch maximum, they would have to reduce the length and increase the width by a couple inches to fit the new rules. And AirTran and JetBlue on their A320s would be forced to be more restrictive than they currently allow."

Still, some sort of conformity would be nice, wouldn't it? Especially as more and more people try to bring their bags onboard rather than check them and pay a fee. But I tend to agree with Snyder that the present bill creates more trouble and inconvenience than it solves. Perhaps a better approach would be to set a standard for total linear length (say, 50 inches) and let each airline arrive at that number in whatever way suits them.

But I'd like to know what you think. Should the government regulate carry-on size, or should it let the airlines handle things? Leave a comment below with your thoughts. Thanks!

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