Checked Bag or Carry-on? What’s Best for Airports Now

The recent uptick in air travel and flight delays have travelers questioning if it’s a good idea to check a bag. Air travel has increased to the pre-pandemic levels due to summer vacations, holidays and weddings. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), over 2 million passengers flew from U.S. Airports every day in September, with more than 2 million leaving each day. The COVID-19 restrictions on travel have meant that the air travel industry is not able to meet this demand. Airline staffing problems have been a problem of large scale.

According to FlightAware (an aviation data collection firm), more than 54,000 delayed flights worldwide occurred between July 5th and 14. This represented 20.8% percent of all flight delays during that period. Delays and cancellations were almost as common back in 2019, but FlightAware credits this year’s mania to the delays clustering around holidays and other high-trafficked periods.

With lost luggage becoming more common—as the airline industry struggles with staffing shortages, delays and cancellations—checking luggage or sticking with a carry-on could make a significant difference in a person’s travel experience.

Do you think it is a smart idea to carry a bag with you?

Most travelers know that luggage check is an essential part of flying. A survey by Go Group LLC found that 55% to 67% of travellers check their luggage when flying.

Kareem George, owner of Culture Traveler and a member of Travel + Leisure’s 2022 A-List Travel Advisory Board, says that checking luggage is convenient if you want to pack more, especially for longer trips, and for avoiding the hassle of lugging around your items in the airport.

“When you have your carry-on bag, it’s one more item. Although you do have total control of your luggage, traveling can make it more difficult. You’re not able to walk through the airport with just a backpack or purse,” George tells TIME.

The checkable luggage has less restrictions on contents, making it easier to transport liquids or souvenirs with you home. Checked luggage can be an ideal option for those with children, or people who have disabilities.

Check luggage is not free. For domestic travel, checked bags start at $30 and go up for each additional bag. A bag must not weigh more than 50 pounds. Bags larger than that may result in a higher cost to the traveler.

Continue reading: Air travel is hell this summer And It Won’t Be Fixed Anytime Soon

“Lost” luggage isn’t common with 92% of missing bags found and returned to their owners, SITA reported, but checking luggage can also slow travelers down. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 220,000 bags were lost or damaged by U.S. airlines in April 2022. SITA reported that 77% are due to delays.

“With delays and cancellations, there are more chances for your luggage to go astray,” Wendy Perrin, a travel blogger, tells TIME.

Delta Air Lines came up with a clever solution to help passengers reunite their bags after an canceled flight. Delta carried only 1000 pieces of luggage on a flight from London to Detroit. The luggage-only flight was an effort to speed up returning travelers’ checked luggage and to help clear the baggage pileup at Heathrow Airport. These measures can be used to overcome flight cancellations and delays.

Keep it simple:

Typically, carry-on luggage is limited to one suitcase, duffel bag, and one smaller item. This can make packing easier due to space constraints. It can help to have luggage on hand during busy flight seasons.

“If you can manage to fly only with carry-ons, then you’re in better shape for a lot of reasons,” Perrin says. “I personally only want to use carry-ons.”

Carry-ons can be used to efficiently pack and have faster transit times.

“Based on the disruptions we’re currently seeing with airlines, this is definitely a strong push in favor of the carry-on only because it gives you an extra layer of control and less worry. You’re able to go right to the gate, get on and have everything with you,” George says.

Convenient connections are an additional factor when deciding whether to take a carry on.

“You have a higher success rate of making tight connections. Comfort is best achieved by allowing as many connections as possible. [and] not to miss them, but there are instances where it’s hard to avoid that. When you have everything in your carry-on, you’re able to just get up and go,” George says.

Domestic and international travel isn’t too different in terms of transporting luggage, but Perrin mentioned that Europe tends to have slightly different size and weight restrictions for carry-ons and George said it’s important to note that traveling through different countries with checked luggage is an added hassle if it gets lost or delayed.

What is the maximum you can bring to a carry-on?

A Delta Air Lines representative,Were there any people who didn’t wish to be namedWhile it is possible to travel with either checked luggage or carry on luggage, passengers must always have medication and any other equipment with them. On occasion, airline officials may ask travelers to check their luggage when there’s no more space on the plane, and travelers need to be prepared to keep some items with them.

“Say you’re at the gate and the gate agent says, ‘We need you to check your bag.’ Take out medical equipment, your keys, your wallet, and keep those things with you,” the Delta representative said.

Continue reading: Are You Going to Vacation this Summer? Welcome to the ‘Revenge Travel’ Economy

For higher profits and less storage, airlines have packed more seats into tighter planes in order to make more profit. Some airlines also charge fees for luggage. United, Spirit, Frontier and Frontier charge full-size baggage fees with certain tickets.

Delta’s representative explained that medical devices like CPAP machines are considered additional carry-on items beyond the usual two. There are also some exceptions for liquids, including liquid prescription medications, breast milk, and infant formula, which don’t have quantity limits in carry-ons.

TSA guidelines limit each passenger to carrying 3.4 ounce-containers of liquid, cream, or gel items in their carry-on luggage, besides the aforementioned medical exceptions—an added inconvenience for passengers flying carry-on only.

It is up to the individual to decide which method of luggage they prefer, and it will depend on their lifestyle.

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