Greatest Hits: InchGate: All Three Major US Airlines Slash Carry-On Size Allowance?

Posted in At the Terminal

As the first year of Fly&Dine draws to a close, I’ll be looking back on the stories that turned Fly&Dine from a tiny blog into a growing monolith (and major hub of hyperbole). With only two weeks left in 2014, let’s take a look at another popular story on Fly&Dine that caused quite the uproar amongst the traveling community.

InchGate: All Three Major US Airlines Slash Carry-On Size Allowance?

This is bad news, friends. Following United’s lead back in March, it appears that Delta and American have followed suit and cut the acceptable size of carry-on bags from 22″ x 15″ x 9″ to 22″ x 14″ x 9″ started enforcing strict dimension limits (see note below).

CLARIFICATION: Reader Matt points out that the 22″ x 14″ x 9″ size has always been standard on the Big Three. The difference now appears to be that previously you could have any bag whose dimensions added up to 45″ and now each dimension has to be under 22″, 14″, and 9″ respectively. On to the story…

This is directly from American’s page on carry-on baggage allowance:

You can bring one small carry-on bag plus one personal item per passenger as long as the carry-on bag fits comfortably in the sizer without being forced and does not exceed overall dimensions of 45 inches (length + width + height).

The maximum dimensions cannot exceed any of the following measurements: 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall or 115cm (56 x 36 x 23 cm). All carry-on items should be stowed in an overhead bin.

Personal item – includes: purse, briefcase, laptop bag OR a similar item such as a tote that does not exceed 36 inches( length+width+height) and must fit under the seat in front of you. For travel after June 11, 2014, the personal item does not have specific size requirements, but must be smaller than your carry-on bag and must fit under the seat in front of you.

First of all, I don’t understand the new Personal Item rule that just went into effect this week. Was anybody checking before?

Second of all, enforcing strict dimension limits is a major issue. This is why: so many luggage makers make bags specifically to adhere to the airlines’ size requirements based on the old “cannot exceed 45 inches†rule. They want to give you the maximum amount of luggage space, so those bags are all based on the previous standard. Some luggage makers make bags that are 21″ x 15″ x 9″, which would have been fine under the old system but now that means that the luggage you bought for the very purpose of fitting into the overhead bins perfectly is now too damn big.

This is only an issue if the airlines get super vigilant about checking carry-on bag sizes — which appears to be the case. George Hobica of, the guy who brought this to the world’s attention via USA Today, certainly claims they are. He tells a tale of woe involving the TSA line at JFK, a carry-on bag he’s traveled with all over the world, and a zealous airport employee who made him measure his bag in the bag sizer before an American flight. It resulted in a trip BACK to the ticket counter to check his bag that was now oversized by exactly one inch. This could just be the case of a Red Coat taking their job too seriously, but it could easily also be the beginning of a carry-on crackdown.

There’s another issue at play here and Hobica doesn’t address it in his article. What if this is a revenue play by the airlines? With baggage fees going up and up and up, carry-on was the last frontier of free luggage. I know I for one downsize my travel gear considerably to fit everything in my carry-on to avoid baggage fees. If the airlines are instituting this InchGate (please oh please let this become known as InchGate), that means the bag you thought was going to fly free is now going to cost you at least $25. That’s a big, big problem. I would be furious if I was sent back to the counter to pay for a bag that I thought was going to travel with me gratis.

I’m fascinated to know how this is going to play out. Have you encountered this recently? Is anyone else being sent back to check a bag because it’s now too big? I want to hear about it in the comments. Let the InchGate Debate begin!

h/t Gizmodo via LA Times via Digg via USA Today

Other Fly&Dine Greatest Hits:

Greatest Hits: 7 Rules for Buying Cheap Custom Suits While Traveling

Greatest Hits: The Genius LAX In & Out Burger Trick



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