Cheese It, It’s the Baggage Police!

Ever feel like you’d like to conduct a citizen’s arrest of a fellow passenger whose oversized baggage clearly violates the size limitations for what is considered carry-on? Several airlines are deploying their own “baggage police” to try to enforce carry-on compliance among their passengers.
Jetstar in Australia and United have begun instructing employees to eyeball customers at security checkpoint entrances and instruct them to return to the ticket counter to check their bags. United has even placed new carry-on compliance boxes at its counters and has sent an email to frequent fliers reminding them of the policy.
But can either airline truly carry out this policing? We love the sentiment, but we’re not sure it will last or be picked up by other airlines.Luggage compartments of an Airbus 340-600 aircraft (economy class). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The issue seems to be the lack of industry standards, both domestically and internationally. Airlines don’t mandate checked baggage on certain flights even when they know the plane being used won’t be able to accommodate even a normal carry-on bag. Instead, airline personnel hand out gate-side checking tags issued for all carry-on luggage, so it can be gate checked and stowed in the regular luggage hold. Why is this?
The answer has to do with overhead bin space and consumer retention. An industry standard for carry-on bags cannot be enforced because the amount of overhead bin space is different with each type of airplane. Some have small bins on one side, designed only to accommodate briefcases, backpacks, and small duffels, while the opposite side has large bins for traditional carry-on luggage.
This means that not all passengers have equal access to that coveted real estate. If it can’t be made available for everyone, enforcing a standard isn’t possible. Bigger airlines have already heard consumer complaints on this issue. No carrier wants to get a bad rap for being a strict enforcer when others aren’t.
It is true that baggage storage issues contribute to boarding times, and can impact an airline’s record of on-time departures and arrivals. But unless equal space is available, it doesn’t seem that airlines are going to have much success enforcing baggage limitations with passengers. Until that day, we advise: Keep calm and carry-on.
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