February 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio February 1998 Current Issue
February 1998 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel


Less Baggage...Phone Home...Road Work

Some airlines have already cut back on carry-on limits

One bag or two? That's a question you may have to answer in the future when deciding how much money you want to pay for an airline ticket. In order to relieve the problem of overstuffed overhead bins, the Federal Aviation Administration has suggested that airlines limit passengers to two pieces of carry-ons with a total weight of 20 pounds. Many airlines are already experimenting with new restrictions, tying the number of bags passengers are allowed to drag into the cabin to the amount of money they pay for their ticket.

On Nov. 20, after an experimental period, Northwest Airlines implemented a permanent policy systemwide: Coach passengers are allowed just one carry-on plus a laptop or a purse. Business and first-class travelers still are allowed two bags plus a laptop or a purse. The only coach passengers who are exempt are the airline's most frequent flyers -- World Perks Gold members and International Gold Elite card holders.

On Dec. 1, United Airlines instituted an experiment called "Take-Off Fares" out of Des Moines, Iowa. For the month-long trial, low-fare passengers were limited to one carry-on so people paying higher fares would have more overhead storage room for their bags. Those flying on Take-Off Fares also had to use e-tickets. "So far, the test has been well-received by customers," said United spokesperson Tony Molinaro two weeks into the experiment. "Many have said that it was about time an airline tried to address this issue." Again, Mileage Plus Premier members are exempt from the limit.

Straight out of Star Trek, United also is experimenting with an electronic "dimensionalizer," which measures the size of your carry-on to make sure it fits the carrier's specifications. United's current carry-on standard is a maximum of 45 linear inches, generally meaning nine inches wide, 14 inches high and 22 inches long. If a bag is too big, it goes into the hold.

The initiatives aren't just being put in place to make full-fare passengers happy; there are serious safety reasons for keeping the overhead bins from bulging. Both flight attendants and passengers have been injured by luggage that tumbled out when the bin was opened. Such accidents would happen less frequently if more of those bags were checked.

The National Business Travel Association backs the trend. "The current debate over carry-on restrictions has economic and safety parameters, but is also a matter of value and service from a consumer perspective," according to Norman R. Sherlock, executive director of the association of corporate travel professionals. In a survey of its members, NBTA reported that 63 percent of the 450 respondents would like carry-on restrictions to be applied to all passengers, regardless of ticket class or airfare. Nineteen percent believe the limits should be levied only in coach, and 16 percent think the restrictions should be based on fares paid.

On the flip side, the Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown/Yanklovich partners' 1997 National Business Travel Monitor (a survey representing in-depth interviews with 1,500 households nationwide) shows that consumers want more space for carry-ons, not less.

What do you think about the carry-on limit? E-mail your opinions to

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Up in the air or down to Earth. GTE Airfone now sells a prepaid calling card that can be used on planes equipped with the company's Advanced Digital Airfone Service and with cellular and traditional phones. The card is available on the ground at Airport Cellular in Chicago's O'Hare Airport in denominations of $10, $20, $60 and $120; GTE also sells $30, $60 and $120 cards over the phone (800-AIRFONE). They'll soon be available at a number of service stations, convenience stores and hotel and airport gift shops. The cards can save you as much as 36 percent on calls from the plane, but the savings do not carry over to calls made on the ground.

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Working well away from the office. For people who are having trouble getting business done while traveling, June Langhoff has written The Business Traveler's Survival Guide: How to Get Work Done While on the Road (Aegis Publishing Group, Newport, R.I.). This $9.95 book is full of tips on getting your road office together, including types of equipment and how to use it effectively. Langhoff, a freelance writer who specializes in telecommunications and technology, also offers advice on focusing your attention on work anywhere -- at the airport, in a plane, in a car, from a pay phone and even in an RV.

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