Friday, June 12, 2015

Shrinking Carry-On Bags

There has long been a problem with carry-on bags on airplane flights. Carry-on bags are so large that only about two thirds of passengers can find a place to put their bags after they board a sold-out flight. Of course, lots of passengers fly without the big carry-on bags, so the system almost works, but on almost every flight I’ve been on, a few passengers have to have their carry-on articles taken away and put somewhere else, usually in checked baggage. It’s an inefficient and unfair system. Now the International Air Transport Association says they can solve this problem by making carry-on bags a little smaller. Compared to what U.S. air passengers have come to expect, the new carry-on bags will be 0.5 inch smaller in the two larger dimensions and 1.5 inches thinner.

Since I am a fan of incremental change, I feel I need to point out that this is not the incremental change that it might appear to me. There is no machine that can take the quarter billion bags that were made to fit the old U.S. carry-on size and shrink them by 0.5 inch. If you are an air traveler, you won’t want to take the risk of keeping your old carry-on bag, lest you mistakenly show up for a flight carrying it. As the Guardian story suggests, you will have to actually throw away the old bag and replace it with a new one made to the new size.

It is still probably the right answer, but there is no getting around the one-time expense involved. When you add up the cost of the replacement bags, perhaps around $10 billion, it sounds like a lot, but it is not so large when you compare it to the total cost of traveling by air. In the United States alone, airline passengers pay more than $1 billion every day to cover the cost of travel. For the average passenger, the cost of the airline ticket for a single flight is greater than the cost of the luggage. Looking at it that way, the cost of the new-size bags might be a nuisance, but if it allows you to actually take your bag on board the plane, it’s probably worth it.