Didn't airlines use to allow two carry-on bags? When did they stop?

IIRC the airlines used to allow you two fairly sizeable carryon bags, one to fit under the seat and one to fit in the overhead compartment. Now, though, it seems that you can only bring one bag and a personal item such as a laptop or purse. When and why did this come about? Is it post-9/11? Or is it a fuel-saving measure? I do remember hearing that even magazines were being dispensed with to save weight.

It is post 9/11. The ostensible excuse is that it limits the lines at security because there are fewer bags to screen. My experience, and I fly 100,000 miles a year, is that the bags are screened much more quickly than the passengers, and that there must be another reason.

Part of the problem is that the checked bags arrive at the baggage claim belts very slowly, so people began carrying more and more bags onto the planes. Plus, as laptops became more prevalent the space in the overhead bin gets filled earlier.

Given the space available in the plane, if everyone carried on the largest carry on bag possible and only one “personal item” there would only be room for about 3/4 of the stuff.

That speech about using the space under the seat in front of you for your personal item? Fewer than one person in ten actually does. Most of the flights I go on end up with people having to gate check bags which would be legal, but there is no space left.

Airlines like the idea of less carry-on for many reasons.

  1. Less weight equals less fuel. Fuel is expensive and has become more so. This litewrally adds up to millions of dollars in savings a year. If your airline is struggling due to competition and regulations, this sounds attractive. Airlines used to offer larger weights for checked baggage too.

  2. Less space per passenger equals more passengers. Consumers largely choose their flight based on price. Less carry-on equals mre cattle in the cabin.

  3. Quicker boarding. Maybe a little.

  4. Can make a little extra by charging for additional or overweight baggage.

In practice, Canadian airlines often let you get away with a second bag if it is a handheld jobbie. I fly a lot and have only been charged for excess baggage on a couple occasions, even when the rules would justify a charge.

    • Most passengers probably would just check what they otherwise would have carried with them, as I intend to. The weight still gets carried, it’s just in the hold instead of the cabin.
  1. I’m inclined to vote for this one as it probably makes carrying the extra weight worthwhile.

Unless airlines have started seating passengers in the overhead bins or under the seats, fewer carry-ons doesn’t equal more passengers.

You’re right about the shift to one bag and one “personal item.”

But one thing i’ve noticed, and i’ve ranted about this before, is the tendency to let people on with carry-on bags that are clearly larger than the allowable size. I’ve seen people with wheelie bags that would barely fit down the aisle.

I really get the shits with this, especially when the bags are so large that they need to be placed lengthwise in the overhead bin, and end up taking up two or even more spaces. I think that if your wheelie bag can’t fit in the overhead bin with the wheels in first, then it shouldn’t be allowed on the plane. And of course the same people who insist on bringing these monster carry-on bags are, on many occasions, also the same selfish people who won’t put their personal item and/or their jacket under the seat, but insist on taking up even more overhead space.

Bill Door claims that checked bags arrive at the carousel very slowly, but in my experience they’re usually there within 15-20 minutes of landing, often even more quickly at smaller airports. If i’ve made a 5 hour cross-country trip, and extra quarter hour at the carousel is no big deal, especially when it saves the hassle of lugging a great big bag on and off the plane and inconveniencing other people.

[rant over :)]

That’s the primary one, right there.

I have friends who work at a big, bankrupt airline, who have told me that these excess baggage charges are actually a profit center for the airline now. Sometimes more profit than from a lot of the flights themself.

I agree with the 20 minute time in most cases. If you’re a business traveller flying 30 round trips a year that’s 20 hours spent staring at a carousel. In addition there is the fact that 2.7 million pieces of luggage were lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered during the first 5 months of 2005 alone. It worked out to be one bag per every 164 passengers, or one per flight.

I almost never use one of the carry on bags, just my personal item, because when I travel for business I usually have a pair of size 13 steel toed shoes in there, and it doesn’t leave much room for much else, so I’m well acquainted with the checked luggage problems. I understand why people try to avoid it, but I’m not a big fan of the people who fill the overhead bin with their rolling pullmans.

I got into a little argument once with a flight attendant who wanted me to put my laptop under the seat in front of me, depriving me of the legroom that I paid for, so one of these “Joe Steamertrunk” guys could put his maximum size overstuffed carry on in the bin.

A general tip to everyone out there, if you need someone’s help to get it up into the overhead, you shoulda checked it. I will generally give a hand to the elderly, but if you’re not over seventy or obviously disabled you should deal with your own luggage.

RyanAir (the leading European “no-frills” airline) is trying to encourage people to have carry-on instead of checked baggage. They have increased the carry-on limit to 10kgs , Reduced the checked baggage limit to 15kgs and have started to charge a fee for each piece of checked baggage. The reason for this is their quick turn-round policy (they limit themselves to 25 minutes). They have instituted other measures, including having no seat-back pockets so that there is no garbage to collect at the end of the flight.

That’s my main gripe with oversized carry-on.

Funny thing is, another gripe i have with all the huge carry-on items is that i’ve actually had a couple of flights (which were otherwise running on time) leave late because there wasn’t enough overhead space for all the massive wheelie bags, and so eight or ten people spent a whole bunch of time searching for somewhere to put their huge bags, and then had to take them back to the front of the plane and have them checked.

Last time I flew (2 months ago), I’m pretty sure the airport announcements said “limited to 2 carry-on bags, one of which must be small enough to fit under the seat”.

The official rule for most airlines these days is 1 carry-on and 1 personal bag. However, in about 50 flights I’ve taken in the last 5 years, I may have seen that being enforced twice. The airlines seem very lenient about what they call a “personal bag,” as I’ve always gotten on with two carryons (one about the size of a fully stuffed backpack, and the other about 1 1/2 times the size of this).

I get a bit aggravated with folks that take too much carry on too. But, I suppose it’s a better bet for business travelers that come and go a lot.

When my wife and I travel, we usually have one pretty big bag, that has to be checked, and on small job that could go on the plane. Heck with it. We check them both. We know that it may be a good idea to keep one bag with us, but frankly there is nothing we take with us that we could not go without for a day or so. Got to check the other one, so….

Once, my Wife and I had some important items that we put in a small carry on and took it on the plane.

For some reason a Japanese couple had to leave the full plane. I think they where on stand by and the person that had the seat showed up. It was kind of weird.

They grabbed the wrong bag as they where leaving. OUR bag. I stopped him. This poor older gentleman (didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Japanese) thought that this big 6’4” American was trying to steal ‘his’ bag in front of 100 other passengers. We did get it sorted out, and he did have a bag just like ours. Weird little experience.

I recently paid 135 dollars to check a bag that I should have probably just tried to carry on. Because on the plane, there were people stuffing like five bags into the overhead compartments. I was pissed!

If I have to check a bag, then I check everything but the laptop. That’s 100% of the time when travelling with my wife. Flying alone, I try never to check anything – most of my travel is back and forth into Mexico, so a 15 minute delay at baggage often means a 30 minute or more delay, because if you’re not the first one through customs, you have to stand in a very, very slow line which augments the problem ::shudder::. All the same, my big carry on is “soft” and I don’t care if someone wants to jam something next to it. Those roller bags don’t bother me too much – usually my big gripe is the damn tourists with all their odd-shaped, fragile crap that takes up the whole comparment not because of mass and size, but because of the dang geometry of the thing – think sombreros or statuettes or crappy wooden guitars.

Checking carry-on baggage may encourage people to pack less total baggage, reducing the total weight. You may check less if you have to accommodate purchases at your first destination.

Reducing “below seat baggage” might allow airlines to push seats closer together, etc.

Oh good, my friends and family are sick of my favorite rant, so here’s a chance to repeat it. :smiley:

My theory is that the wheelie bags are a major factor. Before carry on bags had wheels (and do young people know that suitcases used to not have wheels back in the old days, when we had to walk to school uphill both ways?) then people were less likely to drag their whole apartment with them into the plane.

Another problem is that planes are more crowded these days. In the early 80s when I started flying to Japan, it was actually better to fly economy class, since you could often get a middle section with no one else on, and lay flat over 4 or 5 seats. Not it’s rare to have even one empty seat next to you. Even if people’s bags weren’t larger, then having more people equals less space.

Now the rant. So why is it that people will sit perfectly still waiting for everyone in the plane ahead of them to leave, and then get up, blocking the isle while their pull their 5 bags out of the overhead? It takes forever to get out of planes in the States.

Japan airliners limit the size of carry on bags, and enforce it. The people are ready to deplane and they clear a completely full 747 on domestic flights within 10 minutes.


Hey, thats my rant! I can’t figure out how people are always so suddenly surprised when it’s their turn to move. It’s as if they hadn’t really realized that they were standing up and waiting in line to get off the plane. When the person in front of them walks off, they get this surprised look on their face and start looking around for luggage and coats and kids and stuff while we all stand their watching them. Grrr.

I’ll now feel better if you are on the plane in front of me. That way I know at least someone will be aware that after the comes to a complete stop, and the captain has turned off the seat belt sign, it’s a not too subtle signal that we will be getting off soon.

Every flight I’ve ever been on in the US, the aisle instantly packs as soon as the plane stops and often before. Given the choice between standing in a jammed aisle and sitting waiting for the people ahead of me and those behind me who try to rush the door, I’ll stay seated.