Those of us who don’t check bags (unless necessary) and prefer to use only carry-on luggage might be in for a rude surprise.
The Atlantic‘s James A. Fallows wrote a bummer of a post titled “Air Travel Is Going to Be Very Bad, for a Very Long Time.” (Don’t read it if you’re having an especially rough day.)
Mr. Fallows (who also co-authored the travel book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America) interviewed a number of travel industry professionals such as pilots, economists, and aviation analysts.
There are several predictions in the post: when air travel will return to “normal” as we knew (“never” said one person), will US airports install temperature check machines (yes), and several others.
One that caught my eye dealt with luggage.
Everything will be slower.
If you check baggage, the handles may need to be wiped before staff members touch them.
If you don’t think you’ll be checking baggage, think again: The airlines will likely crack down further on carry-on items, which potentially come into contact with other passengers.
Now, perhaps I took this too literally. But how often do carry-on items actually touch other passengers?
Nor do I touch anyone else’s property (unless they request help — which is sometimes asked of us taller people 🙂 ).
About the only other times people might touch other passengers’ luggage is when trying to shift items around in an overhead bin to make more room.
Why I Don’t Check Luggage Unless Absolutely Necessary
Unless I really need to, I don’t check bags. I prefer to carry on.
Many of my trips last only 2-4 days. So bringing a big suitcase is a waste of time.
Plus, most of us know all too well that travel plans can change when we’re actually traveling. Having all my belongings ensures I’m not separated from my luggage.
Finally, gate agents generally favor passengers with carry-on luggage when it comes to voluntarily denied boarding (or “bumps”). Though I’m guessing #bumpertunities might not come back for a long, long, long time.
Is There an Upside to Airlines Reducing Carry-ons?
Keep in mind that Mr. Fallows is merely speculating what might happen and nothing has been announced.
But he brings up a couple of interesting points:
On the bright side, less carry-on baggage will reduce the rugby-scrum nature of the boarding process.
It will also diminish impending delays at the TSA checkpoint, where agents may need to stop and wipe down bins after exposure to each passenger’s coat and bags. ‘You can wipe down every bin when you have only 100,000 people traveling every day,’ [researcher and analyst] Helane Becker told me. ‘But if you have 500,000 people’—still less than a quarter of what the volume used to be—’it is going to be a nightmare.’
So the trade-offs might be good.
But on the same token, there will still be contact elsewhere:
The Luggage Carousels
Ah, yes. The luggage carousels. Baggage claim. The place where many trips go south.
People are packed together and wait for their luggage. Which they hope is coming.
Depending on how full a flight was, social distancing its passengers at the luggage carousel may be difficult. And because everyone and their brother, sister, and dog has black luggage that looks alike, people are always physically examining passing suitcases to see if one is theirs. When it’s not, they just put their grubby hands on someone else’s baggage.
So I’m not buying the whole “no contact” concept with reducing carry-ons in lieu of checking more luggage.
Why Airlines Might Want to Check More Luggage
Most airlines require passengers to pay for checked luggage.
So if everyone is required to bring nothing more than a personal item (purse, backpack, briefcase, laptop case) onboard the flight and check everything else, guess who’s going to make more money?
You got it — the airlines.
Because of my Delta Amexes’ checked bag perk, elite Medallion status, airline incidental credit on three American Express cards, and the $300 travel credit on my Chase Sapphire Reserve, luggage costs aren’t really a concern. And you know darn well airlines would love more customers to sign up for their co-branded credit cards offering luggage perks.
What Do You Think?
Do you think the days of two carry-ons are doomed? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts in the below comment section!
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