Here’s an irritating scenario many a play-by-the-rules passenger has seethed over: watching a fellow traveler go to the gate with a clearly oversized carry-on bag which is then whisked away to cargo at no charge. Other passengers seethe because they’ve paid the hefty checked-bag fee up-front.
However, this may to be changing according to media reports that suggest more airlines are considering oversize charges for carry-ons. As airline consultant Jay Sorensen of Ideaworks told FareCompare, “I wouldn’t say [it's] inevitable but this is one certain method of solving the problem of too many carry-ons.”
Alaska Charges for Oversized Carry-ons
Some airlines already have fees in place for oversize carry-ons, though passengers may be unaware of them. Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey tells FareCompare that Alaska has had such a policy “for a long time” that mandates passengers who violate the carrier’s one plus one limit of one carry-on bag and one personal item – or one of these items is oversized – be charged $25 for the excess. On Alaska, a carry-on is considered oversized if its measurements exceed 10″ H x 17″ W x 24″ L.
“We don’t see this policy as a way to earn revenue,” said Alaska’s Lindsey, adding, “The $25 fee is intended to encourage people to either check their extra or oversized item for $5 less at the ticket counter [Alaska's checked-bag fee is $20] or consolidate their items.”
Hawaiian Charges for Overweight Carry-ons
Not long ago, air travel analyst Rick Seaney had to pay an overweight charge for a carry-on bag on Hawaiian Airlines. Although Hawaiian’s website now lists a carry-on weight limit of 25 pounds, there’s no mention of a penalty fee. As Seaney said, “The airline’s PR people contacted me to say they don’t charge for overweight carry-ons. I showed them my receipt.”
Why Airlines Charges for Oversize Carry-ons
Such charges may become more common as more airlines attempt to crack down on those trying to shove too much into too little space. However, the airlines have only themselves to blame for lack of space.
When carriers began charging a fee for what had been free bags back in 2008, more and more travelers began packing carry-ons, which sometimes created boarding delays as passengers struggled to find scarce bin space.
The Spirit Solution: Fees for All Bags
Spirit Airlines nipped that problem in the bud with the introduction of a carry-on fee in 2010 that can be even more expensive than its checked-suitcase fee – to the point where it costs travelers who wait to the gate to check a carry-on a fee of $100. Earlier this year, Allegiant began charging a carry-on fee, and while airline consultant Sorensen says other airlines are talking about such fees. As for more charges for gate-checked bags, Sorensen said, “It’s a very touchy subject and airlines are very careful about this.”