The Most Generous Airline for Carry On Bags Clamps Down

Several years ago an Alaska Airlines executive had the most creative way to try to pump me for advance information on whether Mileage Plan would be winning a Freddie Award. He told me he just needed to know whether to plan to bring extra luggage. I said he didn’t need to worry either way, because Alaska has the most generous carry on allowance in the industry.

That was true, but it’s changing effective June 4.

  • The current allowance is 24″ x 17″ x 10″
  • The new allowance will be 22″ x 14″ x 9″

Here’s how they explain the change,

Why are we changing our carry-on bag size?

Our current carry-on bag size is larger than most other international and domestic airlines allow.

We’re changing our bag size allowance to make sure that your carry-on bag will be accepted aboard all the flights within your itinerary. This will help you avoid carry-on bag size conflicts and make connections with other airlines easier during your future trips.

Best of all, we’ll be able to fit more carry-on bags into the overhead bins.

The new standard will match United, Delta, and American. Southwest has a limit of 24″ x 16″ x 10″ so they’re the most generous (and they don’t charge for your checked bags either).

Unlike One Mile at a Time I don’t buy that the reason is many Alaska Airlines customers connect to other airlines with tougher carryon baggage allowances — that they are reducing how much customers can bring on board in order to “help” customers and make travel “easier.”

Sure there may be some customers with acceptable bags on one airline that aren’t acceptable on another. The solution there shouldn’t be to punish all customers, but rather to educate the relatively small percentage of interline customers.

Three years ago Alaska Airlines was the launch carrier for Boeing’s new larger overhead bins on their 737-900ERs. They hold up to 174 standard carry-on bags (a 48% increase over the earlier 117 bag capacity). Incidentally American’s new standard interior includes these bins but they haven’t increased their allowance.

Overhead bin space on these planes just isn’t a problem. However we’re weeks away from the disappearance of the Virgin America brand, and Virgin’s planes don’t have these bins (and neither do all of Alaska’s). So bin space across the Alaska fleet is more limited.

And there’s an upside for Alaska here, which is bags that could be carried on before now need to be checked and that comes at a fee — a fee they’re currently foregoing but where they’re more generous than the rest of the industry so they’re unlikely to lose much business by levying it. And fewer carry on bags should speed up boarding incrementally, usually the opposite of what happens as a result of checked bag fees.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Good thing I did not buy the new luggage that met their earlier quidelines for my Alaska trip in August!

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