45 Inches and Sizers

By Ron Pereira Published on June 18th, 2009

I recently got an email from American Airlines titled, “Important Reminders About Carry-On Baggage.”

Normally I delete these kinds of emails but for some reason I decided to give this one a quick read.

Click the image thumbnail to the left to read larger version of the email.

45 Inches and Sizers

The basic gist of the email was to remind passengers of the carry-on baggage size policy, namely that the total length + width + height of the carry-on must not exceed 45 inches. They even provide a decent little diagram demonstrating how to measure your bags.

The email goes on to explain how there are also baggage “sizers” available at curbs, check in counters, and security access points to help you check the size of your bag.

I won’t lie… I find these so-called “sizers” highly annoying and of questionable effectiveness but, honestly, I’m not sure of a better solution.

Over to You

So, I turn this challenge over to your brilliant minds. If you were in charge of American Airlines what system would you implement in order to ensure carry-on bags weren’t too large?

I’m thinking of a nice pokayoke (error proofing) device of some sort… but what it is I am not quite sure.

What do you think?

  1. Mark Graban

    June 19, 2009 - 5:37 am

    What I find more annoying is when the gate agents start doing visual inspection and, depending on their mood, deciding if bags are big enough. They don’t use the poka-yoke. A bag that normally fits gets deemed “too big.” Not for me, but I’ve seen gate agents really anger Exec Plat flyers with arbitrary rulings on bag size.

    I’m going to try bringing a “bag” that’s 42″ x 1″ x 1″ — that’s technically OK, under their sum < 45 rule, right??

  2. Matthew Jobe

    June 19, 2009 - 7:29 am

    How about an actual mock up of an overhead bin? The airlines must have these sitting arond somewhere.

  3. Graeme Reeves

    June 19, 2009 - 7:33 am

    It has to be a fast and decisive technique. The sizers take too long as the person spends 2 minutes jamming it down and then another 5 minutes trying to pull it back out as its now stuck. The overhead bin might work but I fear the same thing would happen. This is a great question and one I don’t have a good answer to.

  4. Mark Graban

    June 19, 2009 - 7:38 am

    The airlines have created this problem by charging $15 per bag for checking. Duh, the laws of supply and demand say that more people will try to bring bags on board, creating delays and customer ill will of unknown cost.

    The $15 per bag decision sounds like a classic case of one silo making a decision without considering the whole system.

    I wonder, net-net, system-wide if the baggage charges are ultimately better for the airline or not. A simplistic view of “well it brings in more revenue” isn’t enough. Does it also reduce labor requirements for bag handling or airport fees for such?

  5. Mario Medina

    June 19, 2009 - 10:28 am

    You can try to do a Pareto and identify the 80-20 of the common customers vs the non common customers if you can, then do an investigation, prepare a check list only for the baggage is out of specifications and then ask some questions to get some data like “¿Do you travel freci¡uently with us?, “¿How many times per month or year?, “Do you know that the baggage is out of dimensions”, asking them the reason, then statify the information. Ask also to the people that attended directly to this peole, and also to the people that is not involved in the process, coul be trying to get a “lateral thinking” solution in a well directed problem solving strategy.

  6. Brad

    June 19, 2009 - 11:29 am

    It may be more difficult for the spatially challenged, but how about advising of the actual dimensions of the overhead compartment? If the overhead compartment is say 42″Wx14″Dx8″H (just making these up for sport), you’d know that your bag wouldn’t fit if it exceeded any two of these dimensions – even if it was under the alloted 45″. (Yes, your 42x1x1 bag would make it). They could also make the test sooner than the gate (or plane), like the x-ray machine, maybe even the ticket counter when weighing checked baggage, or even dare i say it – curbside check. The sooner the baggage leaves the passenger, the more efficient the flow through the system.

  7. Sophie Breslin

    June 19, 2009 - 12:11 pm

    In the UK we have our check-in desks before the x-ray machine, and this is where the bag is checked for compliance for size and where the ridiculous bag ‘stuffing’ into the guide takes place. If it were the other way round, I would go with the option of electronically measuring the bag in the x-ray process. However, as this is already too late, what about retro-fitting some sort of photocell/laser device on the first ‘check-in’ luggage conveyor at the check-in desk. If bag fails, conveyor passes bag on. If bag passes, reverses bag back out to customer. Can take place concurrently with passenger check-in, not an additional process.

  8. Josh

    June 20, 2009 - 7:11 am

    I agree with Sophie for the most part other than all the technology and expense to set it up. Why not make the bins at the security check point fit the maximum size bag. If the bag doesn’t fit turn the customer back out to the check in desk.

    It has been awhile since I have taken a flight but from what I remember the airline did a decent job of explaining luggage sizes and limits during the purchase, which is the root cause. Self serve measuring stations at the check out desk is the first poke yoke, and the security check point should be the final catch all for the ignorant or complacent passengers.

  9. Vegard

    June 22, 2009 - 1:29 am

    My best (but maybe not too serious) suggestion is that the airlines should use some kind of “tunnel” narrowing from wide to acceptable sizes, cutting off any surplus… Anyone trying to check in a too large bag would never do it again …

    Another suggestion would be to allow bags marked with a “correct measures label” without questioning them (and if you moved it from one of your old bags and cannot make it fit in the overhead compartment, you will have to pay an “oversize fee” when you’re in the aircraft).

    So, standarisation by brute force or by cooperation among actors in the market!

  10. Kevin Brackin

    June 26, 2009 - 8:07 am

    Maybe the airlines can institute a policy that enforces passengers to have carry on bags tagged by a 3rd party indicating that the bags are acceptable… Passengers can have specs checked well in advance before they get to the airport.
    A 3rd party group inspects the bags to make sure that they will fit into an overhead…. If the bags pass the inspection, they are tagged…..If they fail, customers are told that this bag will not be acceptable as a carry on…..Once at the airport, airport personell will look for the tag to see if the bag is acceptable to be carried on….. If the bag has no tag it is sent away to be checked…..Just a though

  11. David Wilson

    June 27, 2009 - 2:58 am

    Lets get to the root. If I was running the airline I would innitiate airline approved luggage made to the right size and shape, possibly with a designer label (lets make it trendy) With a discount to the passenger for using approved luggage. Its a win win system for the airline they get to sell the luggage of the right size. And then get the other airlines to join in. And I want the royalties for the idea. I cant beleive its not been thought of ! And just so you dont get 300 identical bags on the carousel, different colours, and ID marks on the luggage.

  12. Observer

    July 12, 2009 - 12:15 am

    A single linear metric to limit a cubic size is obviously a stupid idea. They must be betting on the statistical probability of l*d*w ratios. I guess frequent fliers understand the problem and cooperate. Airlines can say who are the worst offenders. It is not as if they want to deny any baggage. They are suggesting the odd size baggage be not carried in to the cabin. Checking them early seems to be a good idea.

    Airlines may also allocate a numbered overhead rack space as one gives a seat and charge for it when the space occupied is higher than average. They can also assign extra space farther away by convenience of airline and other passengers. I have faced many problems due to co-passengers who occupy all overhead space nearby forcing me to search and place my own baggage far away.

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