Saturday, August 12, 2006

The End of Carry-On Baggage?

Last Thursday a US congressman suggested that the convenience of carrying our luggage onto commercial aircraft may be over. Can we possibly survive without carry-on luggage?

As one who flies frequently I enjoy the convenience of carrying my luggage on and off the airplane. It's fast, efficient, and I save a couple of bucks not having to tip the porter. Besides, I do not enjoy having to linger at baggage claim with a weary mob queuing for position next to the carousel, waiting for that first mis-handled suitcase to come tumbling down the metal chute.

As much as I enjoy the convenience of carrying my bag on the plane, I will be the first to say that the era of carry-on luggage has gotten way out of hand. Has anybody noticed recently that most travelers ignore the size restrictions that are imposed and supposedly enforced by the airlines? By far the majority of the huge bags, bulging at the seams, that passengers attempt (and often fail) to shove into the already packed overhead would never fit into the tiny Does Your Bag Fit? display at the gate. These people are heading out for months-long sojourns, and they don't even bother to check their suitcases!

The elevated travel restrictions imposed last week have prompted me to think in a different way.

When I traveled from Denver to Seattle last Friday, most travelers had been prepared for the ban on liquids, and by far the majority of the travelers I saw that day were empty handed. A few, like me, carried a laptop bag or handbag. Only one or two idiots still carried their kitchen sinks.

Friday's travel experience (except for the wait at the carousel at the very end) was so refreshingly pleasant for me that I have to admit I am not opposed to a ban on carry-on luggage. Purse, laptop, okay, but luggage - no.

Aside from the obvious security benefits, three things are accomplished with a ban on carry-on luggage:

1) Lines at the security checkpoints are much shorter, and the security checks themselves are quicker. Less hassle and shorter lines equals diminished frustration and an more pleasant pre-flight experience.

2) Boarding is accomplished with greater ease and speed. After the first class cabin was seated, my United flight boarded "all sections, all rows," and this very full flight was on board in minutes. Those few of us who had some kind of carry-on merely utilized the space beneath the forward seat. Without every passenger having to pound over-stuffed bags into overhead bins we were all seated and ready to go in record time. When the main cabin was seated, the open luggage bins were eerily empty, and one flight attendant said, "I've got nothing to do."

3) Finally, with little luggage in the overhead bins the plane de-boards more quickly after reaching its destination. Instead of being held up in the aisle by some slob whose ninety pound Samsonite is stuck in the bin, I was delayed ever so slightly by a half-blind woman with a cane tapping about in front of me.

I will trade a few unpleasant moments at the carousel in order to avoid being struck on the back of the head by an errant American Tourister.

1 comment:

Rick said...

In my limited flying experience, I've always checked the big bag for typical week-long trips, and carried on my laptop bag. Pleasant, plenty of room under forward seat, and there when I need my gum.

They're still letting us take on gum, right?

The worst situation was Lester Holt blogging that for a flight from the UK to NYC, they didn't allow books. I think I would be booking ocean passage at that point.