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History of Airline Baggage

Bob Pluth with the first rollaboard wheeled bag.

Photo: Courtesy of Travelpro

1938: The first baggage rules are put in place: with limited space on planes, the Civil Aeronautics Board restricts coach passengers to 40 pounds for domestic flights and 44 for international.

1977: As planes expand, so do luggage allowances. Airlines now typically permit passengers to check two bags weighing up to 70 pounds each, free of charge.

1981: Budget carrier Peoplexpress (now defunct) charges passengers 50 cents for soda and $3 for all checked bags—the first domestic line to charge for luggage regardless of weight.

1987: A Northwest Airlines pilot invents the original Rollaboard wheeled bag, making it possible to avoid checking luggage entirely. Later that year, the FAA steps in with carry-on guidelines.

1997: The Association of Flight Attendants sponsors a conference called Carry-On Bags—An Everyday Risk. It estimates 4,000 passengers were injured by falling bags in the previous year.

2010: After most domestic carriers slap across-the-board fees on checked bags, Spirit Airlines takes it one step further, charging up to $45 for overhead carry-ons—leaving travelers concerned about future fees.

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