Tired of overhead bins stuffed to the point of bursting, some frequent fliers say they would welcome a strictly enforced limit on the size of carry-ons that is being proposed in Congress. Legislation proposed by Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., would set a federal standard for the maximum size of bags a passenger can carry on board — a decision currently left to each airline.
"It's clear if anything is going to be done, it's going to take an act of Congress to do it," says Lipinski, whose district includes Chicago's Midway Airport. "The airlines are not enforcing their own restrictions that they have on the books right now … and that causes problems."
Supporters of the proposal say jumbo bags are a safety hazard that could cause injury if they tumble from the overhead bin. And they're unfair to the final passengers to board, who often find no room left for their own carry-ons.
"The flight attendants are saying this is just getting out of control," says Shane Larson of the Association of Flight Attendants, which backs the bill.
Larson says the number of carry-ons has dramatically increased in the last year as more airlines have charged for checked baggage and as flights have become fuller as a result of cuts in capacity.
Though policies vary, the maximum carry-on size allowed by an airline generally falls between 40 and 55 linear inches, according to the Association of Flight Attendants. That's measured by adding the length, width and depth of a bag.
Lipinski's proposal calls for a maximum of 50 linear inches, or 22 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches. Representatives of the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, who screen passengers, would enforce the size limit. Airlines could still set their own parameters as long as they don't exceed 50 linear inches.