WASHINGTON -- U.S. luggage makers have called on federal regulators to issue a single standard on carry-on items and thus end what has become a divisive, competitive issue in the airline industry.
With more people flying, the problem of too many bags on crowded airplanes is beginning to cause delays in takeoffs and in emptying planes after flights. Further, oversized carry-on bags pose a threat to passenger safety as people attempt to shove them into storage bins over the heads of other passengers.
Some airlines have taken the matter into their own hands and created friction with rival carriers in the process. Last month, Continental Airlines Inc. sued Delta Air Lines Inc. to remove Plexiglas "sizer" devices at San Diego International Airport that prevent larger carry-on luggage from passing through security monitors in an area where Continental and Delta share space.
"Standardization of carry-on baggage programs is necessary to adequately address the serious potential safety issues related to carry-on baggage," said Anne DeCicco, president of the Luggage & Leather Goods Manufacturers of America. "The standardization of carry-on baggage programs would provide the consumer with consistency and predictability when traveling with any domestic airline and when purchasing luggage and travel products."
In June, the Federal Aviation Administration issued broad, nonbinding guidelines for airlines to use when coming up with their carry-on luggage policies. At the time, the luggage trade group supported the FAA's action.
The petition Friday to the FAA represents a turnabout of sorts for luggage manufacturers, who now maintain that the FAA guidelines do not go far enough. Airlines also have been calling on the U.S. government for some time to establish uniform standards for carry-on luggage.
So why no FAA action?
"The evidence we have seen to date confirms our stance that this is a competitive issue" for airlines, said FAA spokeswoman Kathryn Creedy. The airlines that have placed restrictions on carry-on baggage have done so, she said, "because business travelers were tired of being late."
Still, Creedy said, the agency "recognizes very strongly that there is a safety aspect to this issue." Until it gets more statistical evidence on the problem, the FAA hopes to appeal to passengers' common sense with public awareness campaigns. "If you don't want it falling on your head, don't put it in the overhead bin," Creedy said. "Bowling balls and laptops belong under the seat in front of you."
In last month's lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court in San Diego, Continental accused Delta of restricting Continental passengers' carry-on bags by installing the contraptions on X-ray screening devices. Continental says its planes can handle bigger bags than Delta's.
Pub Date: 12/14/98