Hey Traveler! 2 Carry-On Bags Does Not Mean 2 Suitcases!


Ensure you have the right carry-on size requirements by checking your airline’s guidelines.

If you have been on an airplane during the past few years, maybe you are familiar with most airline carry-on baggage policies. Airlines typically allow 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item (purse, briefcase, diaper bag, small backpack). The thought behind this is that the carry-on bag will be stored in the overhead compartment and the personal item will be stored under the seat in front of you. If all passengers adhered to this, boarding would be quicker and more efficient, and those of us who followed the guidelines would not be asked if we could check our bags due to carry-on bag overcrowding.

On a flight from Tampa to Atlanta recently, I boarded with the third zone selected, after first class and zone 1. I’m usually one of the first in my zone to board, as I’ve learned to be a vulture when it comes to line positioning for boarding. By the time I arrived to my seat, which was 5 rows back from the airplane door, I had to store my carry-on an additional 4 rows back. The 9 rows of seats were only a third full, so, while there were 54 seats in the first 9 rows, 18 people took up all of the carry-on space for 54 passengers. As always, I placed my personal item, a thin laptop case, under the seat in front of me. Many other passengers had to walk to the back of the plane to store their carry-on bags and the late arrivals were left with no space, having to check their bags at the gate.

When the flight landed, I watched as person after person retrieved not 1, but 2 regular-sized roller suitcases or a carry-on and a large backpack from the overhead storage. Since I’m a frequent flier, I was seeing nothing new. However, I observed a woman remove a backpack from under the seat and an additional 2 roller suitcases from the overhead storage! At what point will airline employees enforce baggage guidelines?

I realize that not all travelers are as efficient as the typical daily/weekly business traveler, so I believe that if gate attendants would demand that excess bags be checked, even if free of charge, travelers would learn to pack efficiently, or be forced to check their bags. Some airline delays can be reduced with a quicker boarding process, but the passengers often slow it down with excess bags. Passengers must also realize that if they bring on 2 bags that 1 of them must FIT under the seat in front of them.

The largest US airlines, Delta, American, United, limit carry-on bags to a total dimension of 45 inches, while Southwest accommodates carry-ons at 50 inches. I partially blame airlines for creating this mess, as checked bag fees are excessive. The bottom line is, if you can’t seem to fit all of your belongings in a carry-on that fits, send me an email and I will gladly help you decide what can stay at home. I’d rather have a spot for my size-accepted carry-on than you have 5 different outfit changes for an overnight trip.