Back in early March, fellow UPGRDr Matthew reported that United Airlines was beginning to strictly enforce its carry-on baggage policy. The announcement caused a fair amount of consternation and trepidation in the frequent flier world, though I figured it was only a matter of time before other domestic airlines followed suit. After all, gate checking bags can really gum up the boarding process, not to mention, the use of those bag sizers before security or at the check-in desk is an easy way to pick up extra ancillary revenue from passengers with bags that are too large.
And so it begins, perhaps? The Dallas Morning News’ Terry Maxon reported last week that other airlines appears to have joined the crackdown on excess and/or oversized carry-on baggage, at least according to George Hobica of airfarewatchdog.com fame. Hobica reports that American has brought out the dreaded carry-on sizers to the security checkpoint area of New York’s LaGuardia Airport, sending folks back to the check-in desks to check (and pay for) oversize carry-on bags. Hobica further reports that other travelers have reported similar experiences with other airlines. Sounds like AA and other domestic carriers are joining UA’s crackdown at last, right? Before all you bin hogs out there get paranoid, I’m not convinced that this is really the case.
First of all, unlike UA’s March 1st official announcement of its new, stricter enforcement of existing carry-on baggage policies, neither AA nor any other domestic airline that I know of has actually announced anything similar. In addition, Hobica seems to base his opinion that enforcement has increased on anecdotal evidence provided to him by other passengers, though we don’t know critical details like when/where/which airline(s) involved.
There’s also this – AA has been policing carry-on luggage at LGA for quite some time. During my last trip to LGA in July, 2010, AA had agents just before the security checkpoint asking passengers to put their roller bags in the sizer. I might add, the agent seemed genuinely disappointed when my bag actually fit, and she couldn’t send me back to the check-in line to pay a bag fee. Not that AA would have gotten any money out of me anyway, since I was Platinum at the time. I also flew AA from DFW to LAX and back the weekend before the Fourth, and I saw no evidence of a carry-on crackdown in effect at either DFW or LAX. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sizers used before security at either DFW or LAX, and nobody was checking at either the check-in kiosks or at the gate. (For that matter, there was actually plenty of bin space on both flights, even for stragglers arriving at the end of the boarding process.) I suspect what Hobica might have encountered is just an LGA thing, perhaps spurred by the scarcity of bin space on ex-LGA flights given the high proportion of elite-level business travelers using the airport, many of whom can’t risk checking baggage.
So in other words, this is a long-winded way of saying that I think this a false alarm, at least as far as a nationwide enforcement blitz. If you are the type that takes liberties with the number and size of bags you carry on board, though, you might want to watch your step at LGA, and possibly on other routes that tend to have very high load factors (DFW-ORD on a Thursday evening comes to mind). And at the end of the day, it still wouldn’t surprise me to see AA and Delta do something official before long.