Requiring airline passengers to have smaller carry-on bags isn’t a big idea with some members of Congress.
The International Air Transport Association’s recommendation that the size of carry-on luggage be slightly reduced to 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep drew sharp criticism and skepticism from key lawmakers who questioned whether the proposed shrinkage was more about increasing the bottom line of airlines than creating more overhead bin space for passengers.
"This is just another example of some in the airline industry trying to squeeze the traveling public," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Frederick Hill, a spokesman for the committee chaired by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said "should U.S. carriers embrace this guideline, the commerce committee will certainly scrutinize the potential impact and costs for consumers."
The IATA represents about 260 airlines that comprise 83 percent of global air traffic. Tom Windmuller, an IATA senior vice president for passenger, cargo, and security said in a video on the organization’s web site that the standardized smaller bags would allow more passengers to fit their luggage topside.
Windmuller added that the smaller bags would lessen turnaround time for aircraft because crews would spend less time moving luggage that won’t fit overhead to the plane’s cargo hold. He said about 30-40 airlines are interested in the smaller carry-on proposal.
"A dozen of them have already stated that they would accept these bags," he said in the video. "It includes some of the major airlines of the world such as Emirates, Lufthansa, Qatar. We’re confident that over the next several months we’ll get a number of major airlines coming on board."
Noting that 27 U.S.-based airlines made $3.5 billion in bag fees last year, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., wondered whether the proposed change would prompt even more travelers to pay to check in luggage rather than go out and buy new, smaller carry-ons.
"If our luggage has to go on a diet, let’s make sure the result isn’t another airline industry profit binge," said Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee’s Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee. "Fliers who own previously-approved carry-on bags should not have to cough up another baseless fee to the profit-bloated airline industry."
Menendez said if downsizing carry-ons is about creating more space for more passengers in the overhead bins, then airlines should "in turn give them a break on checked-bag fees, otherwise it’s just a bait-and-switch."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has a selfish motive for opposing the smaller carry-on idea.
"I’m running for president," said Graham, a 2016 White House hopeful. "I’m going all over Iowa and New Hampshire and I’m running out of underwear. So I want a bigger bag, okay?"