With so many new rules, is it worth it to bring carry-on luggage? T+L’s rules here.

Credit: Oscar Bolton Green

This month, in a move that most travelers hope is not a trend, Spirit Airlines begins charging a carry-on fee of up to $100, which is likely to cause passengers to rethink the advantages of carry-ons. Indeed, four years after airlines began widely charging for checked luggage, the surge in carry-on bags has become an increasing hassle for passengers and crew alike. The process of stowing so many bags can delay takeoffs, as harried flight attendants spend their preflight time reloading carry-ons more efficiently. And the U.S. taxpayer is on the hook to the TSA for $260 million a year to examine those bags. Many carriers are reacting by increasing overhead bin space. American Airlines’ new 737-800’s hold 38 more suitcases than the MD-80’s they’re replacing. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are also adding overhead space. (US Airways expanded bins in its 757’s in 2008.) “We want to accommodate as many carry-on bags as possible that meet the size requirement,” says United spokesperson Rahsaan Johnson. Meeting the size requirement, however, poses yet another challenge for travelers, as limits vary from 45 linear inches (length plus width plus depth) on most domestic carriers to a full 56 inches on JetBlue Airways. It’s enough to inspire a passenger to leave the carry-on behind and fly with JetBlue or Southwest, the only domestic airlines that don’t charge a first-checked-bag fee.

Carry-On Luggage Etiquette

  • Stay within the TSA carryon limits: one piece of luggage and one personal item.
  • Put your bag in wheels first. Bags laid sideways take up too much space.
  • Place your items above your own seat so other passengers can do the same.
  • If you must rearrange a nearly full bin to fit your bag, ask nearby passengers if they mind.
  • Avoid forcing a bin door closed. You might damage someone’s belongings.

Mark Orwoll is T+L’s international editor. Follow him on Twitter @orwoll.