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United Stands by Carry-On Policy


Though United Airline’s enforcement of size requirements for carry-on luggage has generated some controversy, the Chicago-based airline says the policy is meant to assist their customers.

“We listened to customers who have had the right-sized bags. [They have been] unable to put them in the overhead bins,” United spokesman Charles Hobart tells FlyerTalk.

The enforcement policy, which went into effect March 1, is meant to accommodate a far greater number of passengers who have previously been frustrated to find inadequate space to store their luggage, according to Mr. Hobart. This also helps in the efficiency of the deplaning process.

United has repeatedly insisted that this policy is not an attempt to increase fees by forcing passengers to check luggage.

Carry-on bags are to be no larger than 22 inches by 14 inches and nine inches in depth. Personal items are to be no larger than 17 inches by 10 inches and nine inches in depth.

Barry Maher, a consultant and author with Platinum status, has flown United multiple times since the policy shift and is pleased with the changes. “While I have a problem with much of what [United does] … limiting carry-on size is one policy I completely support,” he says.

Mr. Maher blames the cost of checked luggage for the prevalence of oversized carry-ons.

“Ever since [checked-baggage fee] charges have been instituted, it’s amazing what people try to carry on the plane: luggage large enough to hold a small car, gigantic shopping bags overflowing with who-knows-what, barnyard animals – stuffed of course – you name it,” he says.

Certainly not all frequent flyers agree. Marcy Schackne, vice president of marketing for Pathfinder Luggage, travels frequently for business and prefers the convenience of ‘grab and go.’ “[I] wish the airlines would not upset the many frequent flyers who are carry-on fans,” she says. “I think United’s new initiative will delay the boarding process and annoy passengers.” Pathfinder’s carry-ons are all the standard 45 linear inches, however, they do not all conform to United’s specific dimensional requirements.

Musicians have also voiced concern over the changes. One violinist said on FlyerTalk that his $90,000 instrument was larger than the sizing requirements. Mr. Hobart reiterated that if an instrument could not safely fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment, it would either have to be checked or a second seat would need to be purchased for it.

Dubbed as part of United’s “flyer-friendly initiative,” the campaign to alert the flying public to the changes began last month when the airline circulated internal newsletters to airport and airline staff alerting employees that the policy was going to be enforced. The flyer-friendly initiative also included the installation of larger overhead bins, which was another attempt at accommodating more bags.

Photo: United Airlines

Comments are Closed.
aerolaw March 10, 2014

The problem with United is they are so out of touch with their customer base that they really believe they are the "friendly skies" again. I have no problem with wanting to bring sanity back to the carry-on fiasco, but they should have implemented this clearly perceived take-away from customers with some sort of service enhancement. But in fact, the term "service enhancement" has left United's vocabulary every since the boys from Houston took over. They keep rolling out new rules, inflight service reductions, changes to benefits for customers, and increased fees, etc., almost as if they believe the customer is the enemy, that the customer is not paying their fair share. Don't even get me started on the 5 zone boarding process that looks more like herding cattle. Note to Smisek and his cohorts - you can't build brand loyalty by forcing customers to buy something they really do not want. Maybe your team can think of ways to deliver a service that customers actually want to buy instead of forcing them to accept your edicts from the great tower in Chicago. Try being a leader and innovator in airline service instead of a follower. Alas, when will true competition come back to this once great industry.

emcampbe March 10, 2014

I'm glad someone will start enforcing this. I think the greater problem, and I've been saying this for a while, is the way baggage manufacturers market so-called "carry-on" bags that aren't compliant with many airline policies. The dimensions they cite often leave out the wheels/handles, which are included in the airline limits. Some of them just aren't anyway. With different sizing, there needs to be some sort of standard. I know I'm kind of dreaming here and this would take a while to implement, but why not get some US-industry association together to certify the bags as "carry-on" size, with the ability to put a seal of approval on the bag. That way, passengers know they meet the standard, and gate agents know they don't have to look at these bags. I understand that some airlines have different size limits, so if the above won't work, why not have the airlines do this for each. A manufacturer could go to United, Delta and AA with their bags for official certification as carry-on compliant, and they would then be able to claim this and put a label on the outside of the bag. Again, all gate agents would have to do is look for the logo - over time, as the major bag manufacturers adopt to this, less fussing as check in/gate agents could glance quickly and know right away. And hey, since the airlines are looking for new revenue sources - this could be it. Have the bag manufacturers pay to be able to have the bags certified by the airline - Imagine if Briggs and Riley, for example, paid for the privilege of having a United and Delta and AA carry-on certification. Makes the process easier for those who meet the requirements and for those who don't...well. Or they could all do what they do here in India. Keep the carry-on limit low-weight - here iits generally 7kg, at least for domestic flights. 75% of bags that come in the cabin today in the US wouldn't be let in (admittedly, a guess). Then give passengers a free allowance for a checked bag - here it is 1 bag up to 15Kg. Here, the bins always have enough space - you don't need to rush the board to find it. And at the end of the journey - an extra 10 minutes and you've got your bag back. Simple, easy, and makes the process through the airport simple too, since I don't have to roll around a bag through the airport and onto the planes.

diburning March 9, 2014

My camera backpack is 18x13x10.5 (inches). According to this policy, it is too large depth-wise. I can tell you that this is a load of excrement as the backpack fits fine on a CRJ-200's bin. This isn't "friendly." It is a blatant attempt to turn United into Spirit or RyanAir.

BuildingMyBento March 8, 2014

I support the new policy. But it also says to me that right up until the passenger boarded, no other official - the check-in agent, TSA, the gate agent - was being eagle-eyed. Ryanair should've come over and offered a bit of training...

paulwuk March 8, 2014

Airlines should charge extra for people not using the hold.