Carry-on bag pro­posal draws fliers’ sus­pi­cion

Some trav­el­ers say a plan to make small lug­gage stan­dard is a ploy to boost rev­enue.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Hugo Martin

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 semire­tired real es­tate agent from New Mex­ico, said she thinks pas­sen­gers cre­ate the prob­lem of crowded over- head 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.”

Robert Nick­els­berg Getty Images

PAS­SEN­GERS load carry-on bags into over­head bins on a United Air­lines f light in March.

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