Suspicion among the reactions to airline carry-on bag guidelines

A trade group says smaller carry-on bags would ensure enough room for everyone in the overhead bins

A proposal by an airline trade group to make a small carry-on bag the standard for all airlines was met with mixed reactions by passengers, lawmakers and luggage manufacturers. But perhaps the most common reaction was suspicion.

The proposal to create a standard for carry-on bags that is 21.5 by 13.5 by 7.5 inches was announced at a meeting in Miami last week by the International Air Transport Assn. By comparison, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines limit carry-on bags to no bigger than 22 by 14 by 9 inches.

Tom Windmuller, IATA’s vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security, said there is nothing nefarious about the proposal. Instead, he said it was designed to ensure that there is enough room in the overhead bins of most planes to fit the carry-on bags of all passengers.

But a few travelers say they suspect the proposal is an attempt by airlines to fit more bags into each plane and generate revenue by charging for the bags.

“This move is to obviously serve the airlines and not the customer,” said Rick Mervis, an office manager for a computer systems firm in Chatsworth. “When is the last time the airlines did something to serve their customers’ best interests?”

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Community Development, was also wary of the trade group’s motives.

“If our luggage has to go on a diet, let’s make sure the result isn’t another airline industry profit binge,” he said in a statement. “This must not turn into another industry ploy related to baggage fees since dubious tactics, like hidden fees, are already used to trick consumers.”

Cheryl Gonzales, a semi-retired real estate agent from New Mexico, said she thinks passengers create the problem of crowded overhead bins by bringing too many unnecessary belongings on flights.

“I see 100-pound young women laden down like pack mules,” she said. “Just what are they carrying in those bags?”

Although the proposed standards are only recommendations, new standards adopted by airlines could force travelers across the country to buy new luggage — a potential windfall for luggage manufacturers. The travel goods industry, including luggage manufacturers, generates $30 billion per year in sales.

Portmantos, a luxury online luggage retailer, endorses IATA’s call for standardized carry-on bags and pointed out that its online store already sells several bags that fit the recommended size requirements, ranging in price from $525 to $1,145.

The Travel Goods Assn., which represents makers of luggage and other travel goods, hasn’t taken a position on the recommendations but said: “If official regulations change, now or in the future, our members will react accordingly and provide consumers with appropriate products and accessories.”

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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