I Was Told My Carry-on Was Too Big, Even Though It Wasn't

Has this ever happened to you?

I had just flown to Miami with my trusty wheeled carry-on bag and was about to board my second flight when I was stopped by the dreaded Baggage Police. I was told my carry-on (which has traveled with me on hundreds of flights) was too big, even though my wife and teenager had just waltzed through the line with identical bags and no one stopped them. What’s going on?

Taking a carry-on? Here’s how to pack it with everything

LISTEN: Rick revisits one of his most soul-crushing days at the airport. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration but it was a pain.

Beware of Clueless Bag Cops

Airlines are getting more aggressive about freeing up coveted but increasingly scarce bin space by nabbing carry-on cheaters. No problem here! Who isn’t sick of seeing someone boarding with not one but two bags (sometimes even three) or the passenger who claims his overflowing steamer trunk is regulation size. Those of  us who play by the  rules checked such bags and paid the fee.

As for my situation, I didn’t cheat. My carry-on was actually smaller than regulation size but it got hijacked anyway. And even though I never raised my voice, I knew my arguments were falling on deaf ears when one of the bag-checkers claimed I sounded “threatening.”

Game, set, match.

So I surrendered the bag and now I’ll surrender an observation or two on how the airline can fix this problem.

How to Make Bag Rules Fair for All

I’m not going to name the carrier of my story because I hear this about plenty of airlines. They can all do a better job  with carry-ons and here’s how.

Stop the cheaters: By all means, nab those who don’t follow the rules so there’s more bin space for those of us who do. If the bag does not meet regulations, charge the cheaters the checked-bag fee.

Sort it out before security: Have employees check bag sizes before security; it’ll make it easier for cheaters to pay a fee if warranted and it may also speed up the boarding process.

Better training for employees, better information for passengers: Be sure all employees have the latest information on baggage sizes then be sure passengers have equal access to this info. One of the folks who said my bag was the wrong size was a contract employee could have definitely benefited from a refresher course on baggage.

Give employees the right tools: If a carry-on is  thought to be too large or too heavy (for airlines with weight limits), no guessing allowed. Employees must prove this with tape measures, baggage sizing-racks or other tools that should be available at every bag inspection point.

Read more about carry-on craziness in Rick Seaney’s latest column for ABCNews and see all his ABC  columns here.

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Published: June 16, 2014