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Opinion: Airlines Should Charge For Carry-On Bags


An American 787-9 at LAX (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

In the modern aviation environment, extra fees have become commonplace for passengers. The rise of ultra-low-cost carriers in the United States has seen passengers being charged for everything from assigned seats to their luggage. Even legacy, full-service airlines in the United States have begun offering basic economy fares, in which passengers are charged extra fees for services previously included in the ticket. This has caused dis-contempt among many passengers, especially over the charging for carry-on luggage.

Spirit Airlines became one of the first airline’s to charge for carry-on luggage in 2010. Since then numerous airlines have also begun charging passengers for their carry-on luggage. This includes both American Airlines and United Airlines, who charge passengers for their carry-on luggage in their Basic Economy fare. However, despite its unpopularity, more airlines should charge for carry-on luggage and in return waive the fee for checked luggage.

A charge for carry-on luggage will benefit both the airlines and the passengers. A flight that is on track to depart on-time can be delayed by passengers carry-on luggage. As flights are departing more full than ever, and stringent passengers are packing more and more into their carry-on bag. However overhead bins on aircraft remain the same size.

During the boarding process, on many flights the aisle can become clogged with passengers trying to stuff their oversized carry-on baggage into the overhead bins. As a flight gets deeper into the boarding process, the overhead bins become full, further clogging the aisle as passenger attempt to move back forward in the cabin to search for space for their bags. Passengers are carrying larger carry-on baggage as they look to avoid fees for their checked baggage.

Not only does this cause inconvenience for the passengers as they fight for space, but it can cause headache on the airlines as well. The backlog of passengers struggling to find overhead space can cause delays to flights creating more delays down the line. The situation also creates more work for the airline’s gate agents as they are now required to solicit passengers to gate check their carry-on luggage. In a time-conscious world, this becomes unfavorable to passengers and airlines alike.

By charging a fee for a carry-on bag and eliminating the fee for the first checked bag, the airlines may be able to reduce this stress on themselves and the passenger. With a free checked bag, passengers may be more inclined to place less in their carry-on bag, or skip the carry-on bag completely allowing for a smoother boarding process. With a smoother boarding process, the flight is less likely to be delayed due to a backup of passengers. Although not a perfect solution, this may be one of the most practical fixes to a problem affecting both the airlines and passengers.

Daniel Morley


  • Daniel Morley

    Daniel has always had aviation in his life; from moving to the United States when he was two, to family vacations across the U.S., and back to his native England. He currently resides in South Florida and attends Nova Southeastern University, studying Human Factors in Aviation. Daniel has his Commercial Certificate for both land and sea, and hopes to one day join the major airlines.

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