Charge for Carry-on Bags Instead of Checked Bags?

With the recent new round of increases for checked luggage fees, I return to a question asked by flight attendants: Why not charge for carry-on bags instead of checked bags?

I have no doubt the airlines would love to also charge for carry-ons rather than one versus the other. Nevertheless, the checked bag fee has been a huge revenue source for the legacy airlines so it will unlikely go anywhere anytime soon.

From the flight attendant’s side, here is the problem: More people than ever are bringing carry-ons aboard the plane. Many passengers max out with two and it is common they want to put both of them in the overhead compartments. Despite pleas that they put smaller bags under the seat, few passengers listen to this part.

Moreover, many of the carry-on bags are oversized, sometimes well beyond the 22″ limit which means going into the bins sideways. At some point, there is simply not enough room to accommodate everything. Usually the last people to board are out of luck and need to have their bags checked. This just adds to the boarding time and the attendant’s headaches as they try to get under way.

Under the present system, passengers still see this as a win. Even if their bag needs to be checked due to no overhead space, there is usually no fee. All they have to do is get to the gate with their oversize bags and they can get their bags checked for free.

Charging for the carry-ons instead of checked bags would no doubt reduce the volume, making the FA’s job a bit easier, but it would cause other problems that might more than make up for it. Yes, more passengers would opt for free checked bags but then, more baggage would be misplaced, lost, or stolen. For passengers, this means long waits for luggage to come off the carousel and even greater travel stress. For airlines, it means more complaints filed which will be costly.

I can appreciate the flight attendants complaints but the source of their frustration is really aimed more at the airlines than the passengers. Attendants rightly believe it is not their job to measure bags and remove those that are oversize. This is the responsibility of the gate agent if not the ticket counter. Alas, the American domestic airlines are pretty lax here.

If this issue was properly addressed at the ticket counter before entering the TSA lines, it would mean fewer carry-ons, faster movement through the security lines, faster boarding, and happier fliers. Except, of course, for those with oversize bags!

If you are looking for helping in reducing your oversize bag, see the top rated article on Smart Women Travelers – “Top 7 Tips for Packing Your Suitcase.”

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  1. Every time I fly and watch people trying to cram luggage into the bins I think it would be more logical to charge for carry-on and let checked baggage go free.

    Airplanes would load so much faster.

    The current policies for checked baggage fees just reinforce the tendency to bring to many items onboard.

  2. Spirit airlines is charging $168 per carry on and $82 for checked bags (round trip)

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