Will Airlines Charge Us a Fee for Carry-On Baggage?

Photo: "Go Ahead: Charge Us for Carry-On Bags!" Fees for Airline Carry-Ons May Make Flying Easier

You know you want to, airlines. You're dying to do it. So which one of you will go first?

I'm talking about charging passengers a fee for toting a carry-on bag.

I know, it sounds crazy -- and I have no specific insider info -- but it's all the buzz with air travelers and you have to admit it's a logical progression: First the airlines charged a fee for a second checked bag, then for a first and, well, what's left?

At the very least, there will be some sort of overhaul of the "carry-on bag system" because, changes are overdue -- and, why wouldn't the airlines like to make some money off of it?

So, it could happen and, surprise -- some of you might actually like it, if or when it does. At the very least, you'll probably get used to it.

For more air travel news and insights visit Rick's blog at: http://farecompare.com

Let's face it, cokes and carry-ons are pretty much all we have left in terms of airline freebies (and for a while there, US Airways was even denying us our sodas).

And we didn't always have bin space, either. You have to remember that carry-ons are mostly a late 20th century phenomenon -- spawned by cheap air travel, a growing distaste for lost bags, and our penchant for toting our livelihoods around with us -- think laptops and such.

Before that, according to Boeing, "overhead stowage bins were never designed to replace the checking of baggage"; in fact, the storage units on early 727s and 737s were referred to as "hat racks" because that's pretty much what they were, bins for hats and coats.

Carry-On Luggage Fees May Be Next

But times changed, and even as McDonald's mantra became "super size," Boeing started rolling out the euphoniously named "BigBins" as an option on 737s and 757s.

Meanwhile, the regional jet craze of recent years -- with their doll-sized bins -- may seem a regression, but for the carry-on crowd it's been a free pass of sorts: if your onboard bag is too big, no problem! The flight attendant will check it for you -- for free.

Yes, but for how much longer?

Something has to change: Flights this past July were 90 percent full, which in terms of carry-ons means chaos in the cabins.

It's certainly a grim experience for travelers like Melissa McDowell of Los Angeles who says, "I can't stand the idiots who keep me waiting while they smash giant bags into tiny bins -- and there sure isn't any room left for me."

A carry-on fee just might change that -- but first, understand that most fliers in the United States are spoiled. Many of our airlines provide a generous allowance of "take-on-board" items: United, for example allows one carry-on bag, one personal item, plus a coat and even an "assistive device" if you need one, such as a cane or crutches. That's a lot -- but some even abuse that quota.

A parent I know (who asked to remain anonymous) recently saw her daughter off to college with two checked-bags, plus one large carry-on, a huge purse, a hefty laptop, a bulky coat, a stack of books and a veritable avalanche of items.

"I thought, they're going to catch her," said the worried mother. "They're going to make her check some of that stuff and pay."

But to her surprise, they didn't.

I bet they would have on European discounter Ryanair: The renowned cheapskate airline allows passengers a just a single, small carry-on bag (22 pounds or less) or one purse or one laptop or one coat or one shopping bag -- well, you get the idea.

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