Airlines to enforce carry-on size limit to deter ‘bin hogs’

Airline passengers will cram just about anything in an overhead compartment — from giant, bulging duffel bags to an actual human being.

“A flight attendant told a passenger to put her baby seat in the overhead bin, so she tried to stuff it up there with the baby strapped inside,” United Airlines flight attendant Jennifer Kilbourne said Tuesday.

Known in the industry as “bin hogs,” those who take up too much space with their oversized carry-on luggage may be in for a rude awakening when they are forced to cough money for checking bags.

Trying to recoup some of the money spent on skyrocketing fuel costs, United Airlines, American Airlines and US Airways have all announced they will begin charging for checked luggage. With the new policies, officials say they plan stricter enforcement of the Federal Aviation Administration’s carry-on policies.

“We plan to have extra staffing and extra vigilance from airport ticket counter folks,” US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said. “It’s not that we think our customers will try to get around checking a bag, but we certainly want them to be aware of the size of their bag and our policy.”

The crackdown on bin hogs is a business issue for the airlines, said aviation analyst Henry Harteveldt with Forrester Research in San Francisco. More checked bags means greater profit. It also encourages people to pack light — which means fewer handlers the airlines must pay to offload baggage.

It’s part of a trend, which also includes check in through kiosks and the Web, to shift the service burden to travelers, Harteveldt said.

“If the airlines could, they’d have the passengers fly the plane,” he said.

Some travelers, however, are welcoming the new vigilance.

At San Francisco International Airport, Noreen McGuire of Chicago said she is often annoyed when she boards a plane only to find there is no more room for her small carry-on bag.

“I’ll open up the overhead bin to and find that someone has taken up seven spaces with their oversized luggage they should have checked,” she said.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

Carry-on fees

If your carry-on is too large, you may be forced to pay $15

Airline: American

Maximum weight: 40 lbs.

Maximum size: 45 linear inches*

Airline: US Airways

Maximum size: 51 linear inches

Airline: United

Maximum size: 45 linear inches

* The length, height and width added together

Sources: American Airlines, US Airways, United Airlines

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