United Airlines Cracks Down on Oversize Carry-Ons

Customer Relationship Management
Customer Experience
United Airlines has decided to be more firm with its carry-on size restrictions, asking passengers to check in bags that are too large and pay a fee. How will this impact customer experience?

Flying is, for some people, a necessary evil. It's a convenient--and many times the only--way to get from one place to another, as long as you're willing to check your comfort with your suitcase. In fact, over the past years, flying has become more of a headache than it's been before. Even if you forget about the necessary increased security checks and resulting long lines, the rest of the experience is more often than not one that leaves much to be desired.

While crowded planes and charges for checked bags are annoying, my biggest pet peeve is being asked to check in my carry-on bag because the aircraft has run out of overhead storage. It's not that I'm usually carrying anything of value which I don't want to be parted with, but more because if I made the effort to pack lightly, I want to avoid tagging an extra 30 minutes waiting to pick up my bag, especially if I'm strapped for time.

Unfortunately, it's not rare for passengers to be asked to check in their carry-on bag at the gate, even if this lies within the airline's size requirements. This is probably due to more passengers travelling with just hand luggage to avoid paying to check in a bag, with some even carrying items that are larger than the airline's size restrictions. As this Associated Press report notes, airlines have been inconsistent with enforcing these restrictions.

But last week it was announced that United Airlines will be cracking down on oversized carry-on bags, sending passengers back to ticket counters and having them pay a $25 fee to have the bag checked in. After suggestions that this was a move by the airline to increase revenue, United responded that this was not the case. According to Rahassan Johnson, a United spokesman, the stepped-up enforcement is simply a bid to make sure that those whose carry-on is compliant with size restrictions find space for the bags. "The stepped-up enforcement is to address the customers who complained about having bags within the size limit and weren't able to take them on the plane," Johnson told the AP.

This move will have a different impact on customer experience on two different groups of customers--while those who make it a point to respect airlines' size restrictions should welcome it, others might see it as another move by an airline to charge them for a service.

Passengers who are stopped from carrying a non-compliant bag are likely to see this move as one that has a negative impact on their experience. But will the increased enforcement improve the experience for compliant passengers? After all, the expectation is that if a bag is within the size restrictions, it should be allowed on board the plane. What is likely going to happen is make sure that compliant passengers don't have a negative experience by being asked to check in their bag.