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Business Trip: Luggage Leniency

extra carry-on room / who's looking over your shoulder? / meetings in prague?

No More Excess Baggage
The latest airline amenity: extra room for carry-ons

Jostling for space in overhead bins is nothing less than a contact sport for many travelers. So a trend toward more onboard room for baggage comes as particularly welcome news. Last year Continental and Northwest finished fitting their planes with bigger overhead bins, which hold four roller bags; the old ones fit two or three. Delta recently announced it would follow suit, with new bins on about 40 percent of its fleet by the end of the year.

Of course, even with more space, there are still restrictions about what you can carry on, and not all the airlines agree. Case in point: After United installed baggage templates on security scanners at Washington's Dulles Airport, Continental, which shares those scanners, filed a lawsuit to have them removed. (They were.) What was Continental's beef?Although its official carry-on policies aren't notably less restrictive than United's, Continental allows for more lax enforcement: gate agents can bend the rules when appropriate, which Continental spokeswoman Sarah Anthony says "is what our customers want." Northwest maintains a similar policy. "It's mainly the gate agent eyeballing the piece of luggage," according to spokesman Doug Killian.
--Amy Gunderson

The 10 largest U.S. airlines have fairly similar onboard baggage rules. The major difference is in size restrictions; some airlines require bags to fit in sizers that have specific dimensions, while others simply look at bags to see if they're under the limit for "linear inches" (the sum total of the dimensions).

AIRLINE NUMBER OF CARRY-ON BAGS ALLOWED DOES A LAPTOP, BRIEFCASE, OR OVERSIZE PURSE COUNT? SIZE LIMITS TEMPLATES ON SECURITY SCANNERS?
Alaska 2 Yes 9 x 14 x 22" No
American 2 Yes 45 linear inches (23 x 13 x 9" suggested) Yes, in hubs
America West 2 Yes, laptops and briefcases 54 linear inches for garment bags, 45 linear inches for all others No
Continental 2 No 45 linear inches No
Delta 2 Yes, laptops and briefcases 22 x 14 x 9" Testing in Florida
Northwest 1 No, 1 allowed 45 linear inches No
Southwest 2 Yes 10 x 24 x 16" Yes, in many cities
TWA 2 Yes 62 linear inches No
United 2 Yes 22 x 14 x 9" Yes, in hubs
US Airways 2 Yes 24 x 16 x 10" overhead, 21 x 16 x 8" under seat, 45 x 23 1/2 x 4" for garment bag No

Who's Reading Over Your Shoulder?
If you never worry about fellow passengers sneaking a peek at your laptop while you're working on the plane, you should. According to a recent study from Fodor's and NFO Research, more than one-third of travelers check out their seatmates' computer screens. The biggest offenders?Single women--more than 70 percent look to see what you've got open.

So you have meetings in . . . PRAGUE
Best business hotel: The Hotel Inter-Continental Praha, right on the Vltava (43-45 Curieovych Namesti; 420-2/2488-1111, fax 420-2/2481-0071; doubles from $325). Expense-account meal: Restaurant Sarah Bernhardt at the Hotel Pariz, for traditional French dishes (1 U Obecniho Dúm; 420-2/2219-5195; dinner for two $45). If you forgot to pack a scarf or tie: Marks & Spencer (19-21 Na Prikope; 420-2/2423-5735). If you have a free afternoon: Take the hour-long tour of the splendid Art Nouveau Municipal House (5 Namesti Republiky; 420-2/2200-2100). Web resource: www.globopolis.com/prague.

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