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Should airlines charge a fee for oversized carry-ons?
The battle for overhead bins gets more intense with every flight, but passengers may not take kindly to yet another extra charge
Budget airline Spirit already charges passengers $45 for carrying on too-large bags, and other airlines may soon follow suit.
Budget airline Spirit already charges passengers $45 for carrying on too-large bags, and other airlines may soon follow suit.
Najlah Feanny/Corbis
E

veryone knows that sinking feeling of boarding a flight to find that all the overhead bins are bursting with huge bags, many of which are suspiciously larger than regulation size. And then there is the bottleneck at the gate-check, where airline agents identify oversized bags and then drag them into the belly of the plane. Well, it appears that airlines are finally preparing to do something about oversized carry-ons. "Some domestic airlines are weighing the idea of discouraging passengers from lugging oversize carry-on bags onto planes by imposing a $25 charge," says Joe Sharkey at The New York Times. But big airlines are reportedly reluctant to talk much about it, fearing a backlash from passengers. Here, a guide to the latest possible fee from the airline industry:

Why are oversized carry-ons such a problem?
Since airlines began charging for checked bags, in 2008, "airline cabins have been inundated with bags of all sizes," as "cost-conscious customers have attempted to skirt such fees by eschewing checked bags for carry-ons," says Ben Mutzabaugh at USA Today. The fee for check-ins has created a "chaotic scene at boarding gates across the country."

But don't passengers hate using overhead bins?
Yes. "Seldom do passengers, gate agents, flight attendants, and airline management all agree on anything — but all agree that the current system is awful," says Sharkey. Along with airline security, the "glum ritual" of searching for "space in a crammed overhead bin is one of the two high-anxiety choke points in air travel."

How are airlines combating the problem?
Budget airlines like Spirit have taken things to an extreme, charging passengers $45 "for carry-on bags that won't fit under the seat," says Giselle Smith at MSN Money. And Spirit has announced that it will soon up the fee to $100. Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines charges passengers $25 if they show up at the gate with a bag bigger than the regulation size (10 by 17 by 24 inches). That's higher than the airline's check-in fee, "so you might as well check all the other stuff you're shlepping," says Linda Thomas at TheNewsChick.

And bigger airlines are also considering a fee?
Yes. They all recognize that "bags the size of Winnebagos and the people who break the rules by hauling them on board are a continuing nuisance," says Sharkey. Airlines are also considering taking the Spirit route of discouraging all overhead carry-ons, even though "the consumer uproar would be thundering."

How would passengers react to a fee for oversized bags?
Some would welcome airlines finally doing something to reduce "overcrowded overhead compartments and delays at boarding," says Smith. On the other hand, says Thomas, a new fee could become the latest irritant for passengers who can't seem to escape the airlines' constant refrain: "That'll cost you."

Sources: MSN Money, The New York Times, TheNewsChick, USA TodayWashington Post

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