Airlines are working to free up overhead bin space.
Just when you thought flying couldn't get any more miserable, airlines have found yet another way to pinch consumers:
Fliers might either need to buy smaller suitcases or pay a fee to check their bags, typically $25 each way.
The recommendation by the International Air Transport Association suggests an "optimal" carry-on size at 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep. That's smaller than the current maximum size allowed by many airlines. For instance, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines all currently allow bags up to 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches — although gate agents don't always enforce those more-generous measurements.
Sounds like a small enough change, but it'll be a $50 per flight difference for many travelers. This comes on the heels of a quiet change last year:
Just before actually getting to the TSA agent's podium, a red-jacketed person (who I believe was hired by American Airlines as a subcontractor but not an actual employee) insisted that I put my suitcase in a bag sizer. Keep in mind that I was flying in business class, and that I've taken this same 21-inch four-wheeled suitcase all around the world on almost every major airline and quite a few not-so-major ones.
To make a long story short, it was rejected as "too big." What I didn't realize, because it's never been an issue before, is that American (as well as Delta and United) has updated their carry-on bag policies, including a 14-inch maximum width, and my Rimowa is 15 inches wide, as are many carry-ons. Even though it's an inch shorter than the 22-inch length limit, and an inch below the official 9-inch depth limit, back to check-in, I went. And the line was so long, I almost missed my flight. I was then told that this is a new "FAA regulation," a questionable claim given that not all airlines have the same allowances.
Like the author of that article, I found myself flying out of NYC's LaGuardia earlier this year and I was also stopped and turned away with a carry-on suitcase that has traveled to all corners of the U.S. and back with no prior issues. And the only reason the overhead bin space is so full on the majority of flights is because of the hefty fees they've added in recent years for checking baggage, forcing travelers to either pay up or cram in the overhead bin.
Although no U.S. carriers have announced they'll implement the new carry-on size yet, the change appears imminent and it's something you should definitely keep in mind if you're in the market for new luggage anytime in the near future.