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Little grumbling from passengers over new United carry-on rules

December 1, 1997

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ There was little grumbling among United Airlines passengers flying out of Des Moines on Monday as the carrier began an experiment to speed up boarding and satisfy business travelers longing for more space.

The rule, which affects only United flights departing Des Moines International Airport, limits people paying low fares to just one carry-on item rather than the standard two.

``It’s an inconvenience for people to jam that (carry-on bags) in and then try get up and down the aisle,″ said Jack Trant, who was returning to Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife. ``This will help us move efficiently into the plane.″

The airline hopes to eventually extend the policy to all flights to free up carry-on space for business travelers, who usually pay more and sometimes complain they can’t find room for their bags.

``We’ll probably board a little quicker and probably get off a little quicker,″ said Doug Cooprider, a business traveler from Nevada, Iowa, flying coach to Chicago.

United spokesman Tony Molinaro said the airline chose Des Moines to test its new rule because of the area’s high percentage of business travelers.

Des Moines has four times the business travelers using United to fly out of comparably sized cities such as Omaha, Neb., and Kansas City, Mo., Molinaro said.

Laptops, briefcases, purses, coats, reading material and baby bags do not count toward the one item rule.

Charles Jackson, who clutched a large garment bag as he waited for a connecting flight back to Chicago, said such a rule wouldn’t make him look to other airlines.

``It doesn’t affect me because I always take only one bag,″ Jackson said.

In addition to its new rule, United Airlines also is stepping up enforcement of carry-on size restrictions. The airline is testing the prototype of a machine that uses lasers to ensure a bag is within limits.

Setup in the lobby at the Des Moines airport, the machine uses lasers to quickly measure luggage which should not exceed 10 inches in width, 15 inches in height and 23 inches in length.

``I don’t think people intentionally try to bring their whole house with them,″ said Barbara Lytle, Des Moines airport operations supervisor for United.

Last month, Northwest Airlines began permitting travelers just one carry-on bag plus a small addition such as a purse or laptop. A recent American Airlines change requires attendants to determine the number of acceptable carry-ons for all flights by gauging the passenger load.

The Federal Aviation Administration is asking airlines to amend and clarify their carry-on policies as regulators work on developing guidelines.

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