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AIRLINES START TO LIMIT CARRY-ON BAGS ON FLIGHTS.

Byline: Jenifer Hanrahan Daily News Staff Writer

Fast-talking skycap Lee Howard handled Eileen Platt's luggage in about the time it takes to down a bag of airline peanuts.

One really big suitcase.

One suitcase with wheels.

One shopping bag of Christmas presents.

One 6-foot African spear.

``No ma'am, you can't bring that on board,'' Howard said. ``You'll have to check it.''

Especially during the holiday season, airline passengers try to haul lots of stuff onto airplanes, jamming their loot under seats and into overhead bins.

But space considerations and concerns over injuries from falling luggage have prompted airlines to crack down on the number and size of carry-on bags.

United Airlines allows two carry-ons, plus a smaller item such as a purse, on most flights. The airline is experimenting with a one-bag carry-on policy for low-fare passengers on flights out of Des Moines and is trying a machine that uses laser technology to measure the dimensions of carry-on bags to make sure they meet size restrictions.

American Airlines recently eliminated a specific number of allowable carry-on bags from its policy, giving flight crews the discretion to determine the amount of carry-on luggage based on how a crowded the flight will be.

Under current rules, the Federal Aviation Administration allows each airline to set its own carry-on luggage guidelines.

But space in the skies is getting more cramped because passengers these days have extra baggage - laptop computers, portable printers and suitcases with wheels that were once used mainly by flight crews.

Often, those flight crew-style suitcases either meet or exceed the dimensions permitted for carry-on baggage, said Tim Smith, American Airlines spokesman.

``We need to be able to safely stow all carry-ons under seats, in the overheads and in the closets,'' Smith said. ``If at any point we get to the point where we can no longer safely stow bags, we will start checking them.

``I've seen carry-on bags that look like steamer trunks.''

Still, the question remains: Will cutbacks on carry-ons fly?

Peter Abrahamson says he has no plans to part with his carry-on luggage.

``It's ludicrous,'' Abrahamson said. He and his 4-year-old daughter, Cassidy, arrived at their gate with a garment bag, two heavy coats and a duffel bag.

The duo had already checked several other bags that contained a car seat, video camera and gifts. ``People have stuff. You can't travel without stuff.''

Constance Riedinger, who commutes weekly from Burbank to her home in Mill Valley, toted a briefcase, a suitcase with wheels, a laptop computer, a small purse and an overcoat on board.

When packing for holiday travel, here are a few tips for saving space and hassle:

Don't wrap packages ahead of time. You may have to unwrap them at the security checkpoint.

On most airlines, a shopping bag full of holiday presents counts as one carry-on.

Some airlines, such as American, count a laptop computer as a carry-on. Other airlines, such as United, do not.

Coats, umbrellas, canes, crutches, infant necessities, small cameras and handbags or purses are not counted as carry-ons. (Just make sure your purse isn't the size of a steamer trunk.)

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Photo

Photo: Passengers can skirt the check-in lines at airports by carrying on their bags, but that won't be possible if airlines get stricter about stowed baggage.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 24, 1997
Words:548
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