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Attendants Weigh In on Carry-On Issue

December 20, 1998

Weighing in--literally--on the issue of carry-on luggage restrictions last week, the Assn. of Flight Attendants (AFA) urged even tougher limits than those currently used by U.S. airlines.

The group, with 43,000 members, petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to limit carry-ons to a total of 13 pounds and 45 linear inches (length plus width plus height) per passenger--essentially the size of one carry-on bag. Even purses would count in carry-on tabulations. Exceptions would be made for a child's seat and items to assist with disabilities. By contrast, most major U.S. airlines now allow two carry-ons, each about 45 linear inches (see "Just the Facts" chart on this page), and many exempt purses.

Flight attendants say they bear the brunt of passengers' anger over conflicting carry-on rules--and, along with passengers, get injured by lifting or being struck by heavy luggage. As for the 45-inch limit, flight personnel worldwide are urging it, and some international airlines have already adopted it, creating havoc on U.S.-foreign code-share flights, according to Christopher Witkowski, AFA director of air safety and health.

U.S. luggage makers this month also petitioned the FAA to set uniform carry-on rules, and last month in a lawsuit, Continental objected to sharing a Delta-installed baggage-screener at the San Diego airport that blocks some carry-ons that Continental allows.

Will any of this fly with the FAA? "At this time, we are not convinced that further regulations are necessary," said the agency's Mitch Barker, who insisted that since planes differ, it's hard to set a single carry-on luggage standard. Current FAA rules just specify that carry-ons be properly stowed in overhead bins or under the seat.

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