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Could You Check Your Carry-On Bag?

Packing a carry-on bag for a flight has never been effortless; it’s always taken a bit of ingenuity to arrange things so you can reach what you might need. And for a long time now, we’ve had to remove any scissors or blades and bid au revoir to bottles that hold over 3 ounces. But now? Now we have to do all this and also pack our carry-ons as if they’re about to be checked: no valuables, no breakables, no necessary medications.

Since airlines began charging checked-bag fees last year, many of us have adjusted our habits to avoid checking any luggage. In my opinion, the problems this has caused—overly full overhead bins and major delays boarding—are only getting worse.

This weekend, two flights I was on were significantly late pushing back from the gates because of issues fitting everyone’s allotted luggage in the overhead bins. On the first flight, the plane ran out of space after three-quarters of the passengers boarded, so those of us still at the gate were forced to check our carry-ons right then and there. The woman in front of me was convinced that we all purposely took large carry-on bags to the plane in hopes of being made to check them at the last second, fee-free. Speaking for myself, and judging from everyone else’s grumbles, this was not the case.

The same thing happened on my way home, though my bag made it on the plane in my hand this time. There was plenty of drama, though, as a flight attendant pleaded with passengers already in their seats to let her check their rather large (but still in compliance) bags. Several people refused, and she was nice enough to make room in a closet for a bag that wouldn’t fit overhead.

So my questions are, do other travelers think this problem is getting worse, and do you now pack your carry-on so it’s ready to be checked at any moment? And have you ever purposely orchestrated an at-the-gate bag-check to avoid fees?

Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member Troobabiee7


My name: Michelle Doucette

How I earn my keep: I'm an editor at

Favorite way to get around: Some of my favorite trips involved renting cars in foreign countries and driving through the countryside, stopping on whims. You get a feel for the culture away from the big cities and meet interesting people on the road, including, I must admit, an embarrassingly high number of local policemen. I suppose it would be prudent to learn all of the traffic laws ahead of time.

Best meal I've had while traveling: Since a succession of gelato cones probably doesn't count as a meal, my favorite must have been a fresh crabmeat lunch prepared by a St. John sailboat captain while we took a break from snorkeling in the Caribbean. Sharing baklava as the sun came up over Paros, Greece, (while, once again, not technically a meal) was also memorable.

Travel ambitions: Since climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I've figured out that I'd like to keep trekking while traveling. I've got my eyes on epic hikes in Nepal, Bhutan, and Peru.



I think carry-ons are the least concern with airlines right now. A three-part report on NPR revealed the spotty safety issues created by airlines sending their fleets abroad to be repaired to cut costs.

Part 1 discusses a flight that needed to land because the door began to open during the flight: the repair crew installed a key piece upside-down. The FAA is found to have little to no oversight of many of these foreign repair bays.

Part 2 discusses how the repair manuals from the airlines are written in English and the repairmen can’t read them. So planes in El Salvador are repaired incorrectly with the wrong parts (in one instance, the wires for the engine indicator guages are crossed, meaning that if one of the guages showed a problem with an engine, the pilot would likely SHUT DOWN THE WRONG ENGINE).

Part 3 is a bit of a relief, as the seemingly lone exception to this trend is American Airlines.

May @ Anne and May

I think things are DEFINITELY getting worse. How hard would it be for the airlines to all agree to set fees for bags and add them to the ticket price? Then we could all go back to checking our bags.


This was a huge problem before airlines stated charging for checked bags and it’s much worse now. I think it would help if they enforced the number of carry-ons (lotsa folks bring 3) and the size. They have the regulations, but at this point, anyone can get away with almost anything, which makes the problem worse.

USA Today has a cover story today on this issue:

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the major sufferer were the passengers who travels with the low cost carriers and even the airlines also suffered a lot with no frills at all, the carriers unable to install the new service for their passengers.


Now that the fuel rates are down all airlines should go back to including seats and checked baggage in their tickets and up those ticket prices if necessary. There would be less people trying to bring the max on board. This would also help planes get out of the gates on time. Even before you had to pay for checked baggage it was hard to find a place to put necessary carryons.

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