Would you pay for your carry-on?

So before you answer that let’s take a step back.  At the moment many of the airlines are charging for checked baggage.  So if you are travelling on a budget then what you do is you bring your maximum carry on which is one personal item and one carry on.  Now as you know this has been the subject of previous blogs (well maybe you don’t know if you haven’t been following) of how HUGE (couldn’t resist that one) the bags are that people try to cram into the overhead bin.

Gary Leff (industry expert) reported on the new United baggage policy and how Basic Economy will work  in full – here is an extract –

“United is going to push customers with Basic Economy tickets into boarding group 5. Gate agents are being trained that boarding group 5 does not get a full size carry-on bag. They are limited to a personal item only. And agents will have mobile payment systems so they can process any full size carry-on bags as checked bags. (There will be a ‘handling fee’ – amount not yet announced – for Basic Economy customers who get their bags checked at the gate on top of the normal checked bag fee.)”  Read the full article here

This is the description of a “personal item” from the United Airlines website –

Personal item

The maximum dimensions for your personal item, such as a shoulder bag, backpack, laptop bag or other small item, are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm).

So how many passengers will try to push the envelope (or the backpack) to get a bigger personal item?

It is not clear to me whether you would be allowed to put your one personal item in the overhead bin.  I would think that the instruction would be that they must be placed under the seat in front of you.  It also seems that there will be agents checking when you board the flight to ensure that your personal item does not exceed the recommended limits.  Boy – is that going to cause some delays or what.  Can you imagine irate customers who don’t know – or claim they don’t know – about this new rule.

On the one hand I get it – as a frequent flier who travels light (just one small backpack which I put under the seat in front) it is irritating (sometimes amusing) to see what people will try to cram into the overhead bin.  The other not-so-amusing part is getting off the flight when these heavy carry on bags are being pulled out of the overhead bins left right and centre with everyone pushing to get off.  You can get a little riled at that I guess. Some people certainly do.

So back to United’s Basic Economy ticket.  More details are going to be released but it seems that buying one of these tickets will be taking away many of the things you might be used to – such as (from Mr Leff’s article)

  • No seat assignments prior to check-in, and no changes to the seat you’re given
  • No ticket changes at all (instead of a $200 change fee, you’d simply forfeit the entire value of a ticket and have to buy a new one)
  • No elite status credit (no qualifying dollars, segments, or miles) although you’ll still earn redeemable miles on these fares.
  • Bring a personal item onboard only, no carry-on bags (this is waived for elites including Star Alliance Gold members and for co-brand credit card holders)
  • No elite upgrades
  • No economy plus seating for elites (and no buy up to economy plus for anyone). Elites will effectively has to start paying for economy plus, on routes where Basic Economy fares are being offered, in the form of a higher fare.

Well none of this matters if you can fly Emirates First class – see keep buying those lottery tickets and when you win – give me a call!






By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


    1. Oh Wendy – don’t. There is so much out there to discover. The problem with air travel in North America is that we do not have enough competition like they do in Europe. e.g. flights from Manchester to Tel Aviv for not much over GBP 100. Let’s bring in the foreign carriers and then we can all save!


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