Squeezing Airline Carry-on Bags: United Airlines Joins the Fee Club

Craig Stroud Airline, fees, travel, Harpoon, Lance, Trident,

Ecbc work-arounds for the shrinking space on airline flights

The freewheeling days of taking your carry-on bags aboard your flight may be seeing a soft landing in months to come. United Airlines recently joined Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Air, and Spirit Airlines in their practice of charging for every bag you want to bring, carry-on or checked. Yes, purses are still allowed (often folded into the larger bag). And that book you’ve been reading? Consider it a generous perk next time you open a chapter on a plane.

But if you want to take your assortment of neck pillows, sandwiches, computer, folders, iPad, reading material, sweatshirt and Skittles, you’ll have to pay for it according to new pay scales being set by the American legacy carrier.


Airline Fees Stacking Up

The new charges mark the first time the majors have made a play for the for carry-on baggage space, although they have freely and happily made a mint on checked baggage fees. A 2016 report from the IdeaWorksCompany found that extra charges, or ancillary revenue, increased from $8.4 billion in 2008 to almost $26 billion in 2015 among the 10 largest airline carriers. United’s announcement follows Delta Air Line’s move to sell bare fare tickets that prohibit itinerary changes and seat selection. With United, passengers that purchase the “Basic Economy Fare” do not have access privileges to the overhead bin space. They can take a bag that fits under the seat in front of them. If they want to spread out their wares on the bin space above they will have to purchase a higher-priced ticket. The new base fare becomes available next year.

It may be a new era in fee levies, said Jens Bischof, Executive Vice President of Sales for the Lufthansa Group Airlines at the annual Phocuswright travel technology conference in November, noting the move was not a surprise. Lufthansa and other international carriers serving the U.S. have yet to create such charges.


New Basic Economy Fares

United claims the move is toward the transparency in pricing that passengers want in their fare choices and at United that means a “Basic Economy Fare” that will charge customers for their seat only (and yes, use of the onboard restrooms is still free), although the size of that seat has shrunk a bit as well – from an average width of 18 inches to 16.5 inches, with a pitch reduced from 35 to 31 inches. Picking that seat? Not a shot. It will be assigned on day of departure with no guarantees of getting to sit next to family and friends.

Charges for carry-on bags on these airlines may not be cheap and may not, in the end, save you money. Spirit Airlines charges $20 to $100 per bag for cramming carry-on bags into overhead bins. Allegiant charges $10 to $75. Carry-on bag fees at Frontier start at $30.


Choices for Airline Passengers

Still, it marks a choice one makes and the choice may not be for everyone. If you have to work on documents, need extra legroom, loathe sitting in that middle seat or want to sit with your partner, a bottom barrel fare may not be for you.

Similarly, passengers have choice on what kind of bag they carry to take on the plane. Hard cases and roller bags are not easily stuffed into the thin, short spaces between the seat legs on a plane. But soft cases and backpacks are easy shoe-ins.


Great Carry-on Bag Choices and Solutions

Ecbc bags provide a variety of options that will pass muster with airline crews and fit comfortably in spaces allowed. These include four convenient backpack designs that carry all you will need for a relaxed onboard experience without the hassles of fighting for bin space. The smallest option is the Harpoon Daypack weighing in at just over two pounds and made of HD Ballistic Nylon with double thickness padding on the base of the daypack to resist wear and tear. A laptop bag by design, it fits most 17-inch laptops and leaves ample room for your other items.

At $99, it contains:

  • • 17 Storage Compartments
  • • Quick Access / Ticket Pocket
  • • Zippered Water Bottle Holder
  • • Multiple Organizational Compartments
  • • 15 Liter Capacity (916 cubic inches)
  • • Water Resistant
  • • Moisture Wicking Air Mesh Back Panel
  • • Duraflex Adjustable Padded Shoulder Straps
  • • Padded Top Handle


The largest of the carry-on backpacks is the handsome Lance Executive Daypack that is also constructed with nearly indestructible ballistic nylon and, with its trademarked FastPass®  feature, is perfect for business travelers on the go. Travelers using this bag fly through security lines as the FastPass® system that holds laptops and iPads is a simple unzipping and rezipping process – no removal of electronics and resultant disarray of items.

The Lance Executive Day Pack runs $149 and weighs 3.4 pounds. Water resistant, it features these added perks:


  • • Self-Repairing, Water-Sealing YKK Zippers
  • • Up to 17” Laptop w/ Removable Modular Insert to Fit Smaller Devices
  • • 19 Storage Compartments
  • • High Density Protective Foam in Laptop & Tablet Pockets
  • • Padded iPad / Tablet Pocket
  • • Phone Pocket
  • • Quick Access / Ticket Pocket
  • • Zippered Water Bottle Holder
  • • Multiple Organizational Compartments
  • • 28 Liter Capacity (1,008+ cubic inches)
  • • EVA Comfort Foam Back Panel
  • • Duraflex Adjustable Padded Shoulder Straps
  • • Waist Belt - Tucks Away When Not Needed
  • • Padded Top Handle


The Trident Messenger Bag is also in the running as a safe, capacious and convenient bag to freely carry-on an aircraft (note: purses should be able to fit into these bags as well for the airlines that have a one-personal-bag policy).

The laptop messenger bag is durable and light and features the FastPass® for easy electronics access and security passage. The Trident Messenger Bag’s main compartment, accessed through a top zipper, allows entry without having to open the flap. The $119 bag fits easily under the forward seat and features these added elements:

  • • Self-Repairing, Water-Sealing YKK Zippers
  • • Up to 15” Laptop with Removable Modular Insert for Smaller Devices
  • • High Density Protective Foam in Laptop Pocket
  • • Phone Pocket
  • • Quick Access / Ticket Pocket
  • • Multiple Organizational Compartments
  • • 16 Liter Capacity (1000+ cubic inches of packing space)


Guide to Checking Your Baggage Fees on Airlines

Airline Fees

Murrieta California 92562 US