Check-in VS Carry-on Baggage – and how we could improve traveling with luggage

check-in vs carry-on

The age-old discussion about check-in vs carry-on is best started with some history. It was in 1987 that the ‘Rollaboard’ case was invented. This invention meant that passengers could now easily avoid checking in luggage entirely: the age of carry-on travel had begun.

Later that year, the first carry-on guidelines came into place, as it became an increasingly popular way to travel. With hand luggage alone, you could avoid the lines at check-in and also save time upon arrival by not having to wait at the baggage belt.

Sounds great, but…

Fast forward to 10 years later, in 1997, The Association of Flight Attendants sponsors a conference called – and here it comes:

“Carry-On Bags – An Everyday Risk”

Basically, the poor crew members were struck by cabin luggage on a regular basis, and no less than 4,000 passengers were seriously injured by falling luggage the year before the conference.

So, more and more restrictions came, and one of the serious downsides about travelling with a carry-on these days, is that airlines are becoming increasingly strict. Accepted size and weight gets tighter, and the risk of having to check in your carry-on at the gate seems to rise by the flight.

Been there done that – rushing to pull out essentials like laptop, passport and wallet (that you then have to carry around in a half-broken plastic bag – originally meant for dirty laundry – for the remainder of the trip).

Is checking in baggage any better?

When flying with check-in luggage, passengers encounter more queues at the airport than they otherwise would. And let’s be honest, there are few things more annoying than a long queue at a crowded (and somehow always either too hot or too cold) airport. Whether you’re a frequent business traveler (where time is money), or hoping to get your annual holiday off to a relaxed and enjoyable start, it’s not a fun way to spend your free time.

Then there is the curse of lost baggage. If you’ve ever had your bag go missing – for days, weeks, or forever – you know how stressful it can be. Again, constantly chasing the airline for information or compensation just isn’t a good way to spend your holiday, or a productive way to spend your business trip. Fear of your bag going missing is a good reason for wanting to keep your luggage at hand.

On the plus side, over the past 3 years the percentage of lost luggage has actually gone down significantly, with 70% fewer bags going missing. Things should continue to improve, with more tracking options available on the market, and airlines constantly trying to improve their baggage handling, as it’s an important factor for passenger satisfaction.

Check-in vs carry-on baggage

Let’s face the facts: for most people, flying without luggage is not going to happen anytime soon. It’s going to be a little while before we can 3D print our fully recyclable clothes, and that your laptop becomes the size of a matchbox because it works with tiny touchable projectors, instead of a screen and keyboard (brilliant idea – anyone?).

However, if passengers keep trying to stow as much in their carry-on bags as humanly possible, and airlines still use the same handling systems for check-in luggage that results in said passengers having to physically stand in line for ages… We’re not getting anywhere.

The solution is to make flying with check-in luggage as comfortable, quick and easy as possible.

Small changes can make a big difference. As I mentioned at the start, just putting some wheels underneath a case dramatically changed the way we’ve traveled over the last 35 years. One of the downsides of traveling with baggage was having to carry it, so that was a problem solved.

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What about queuing?

Perhaps the most common argument for not checking in baggage is to avoid the queues at check-in and at the baggage belt upon arrival. Depending on the trip, saving that time can be more valuable than the benefits of flying with a bigger bag.

Physically having to get your bag labeled at a desk/kiosk at the airport is causing queue number 1. Then we have a fun time at the baggage belt where you are waiting because you can never really quite tell when your luggage arrives, causing queue number 2.

But let’s look at the following scenario: instead of having to choose between check-in and carry-on, everyone flies with check-in luggage. You simply automatically get 1-3 suitcase(s)/bag(s) for check-in, free of additional cost and you’re allowed 1 non-checked bag with essentials only (let’s just forget about sizes and regulations here for a second). Instead of queuing at the check-in desk, you use an electronic bag tag and check in your bag from the comfort of your home, hotel, or anywhere you like, along with your mobile flight check-in through the airline app.

Ready to fly

Everyone gets to the airport ready to fly, and all that’s left is stopping by a touchless drop-off point where you leave your bag(s). With no one having trolleys and bigger carry-on luggage, the flow through the airport is fully optimized. No tripping over trolleys. The security checks will be a breeze for both passengers and staff – and also will become safer as the bags get smaller as there are fewer options to hide items. Boarding will be incredibly easy compared to the current situation: now there is plenty of room in the overhead bins. There are no heavy bags and suitcases to be stowed away, no more risk of those hurting heads either. Plus, you avoid the risk of having to check in your carry-on bag at the gate entirely.

Thanks to a tracker inside your check-in luggage, you grab your mobile as soon as you sit down to enjoy your flight, and can see whether your bag is in fact boarded. Lost luggage is a thing of the past. In case you see it’s somehow not on the plane, you can send out a direct notification that your bag is lost, urging the airline staff to look for it.

Upon arrival, the same goes for disembarking – one easy passenger flow goes from the plane through the airport. You receive regular updates about when your bag(s) arrives on the belt, and in case yours is still some time away, you can take your time and have a refreshment along the way.

So you see, with the overall passenger flow improving, everyone’s journey improves tremendously, and flying with check-in bags will actually be faster in this scenario than travelling with a carry-on in the old setup. There won’t be any need for a check-in VS carry discussion to begin with.

The great thing is that this technology is already available, and there is no need for any structural changes at airports for it to work…

Would you consider purchasing items like electronic bag tags and trackers for travel with luggage to improve? 

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