No, My Carry On Bag Is NOT Too Big To Fit In The Overhead

“Ma’am, Your carry on bag is too big to fit into the overhead. You’ll have to gate check it.” These were the words of the American Airline employee with the sourpuss as I gave her my boarding pass. “And you’re only allowed to have 2 bags. You’re carrying too many bags.”

“No I’m not,” I replied, standing my ground. “I only have 2 bags. This is a travel pillow I put behind my back so I can sit more comfortably on planes and this is the lunch I just bought from Hudson News, since our flight between Orlando and Phoenix is four hours long and you’re probably not going to give us more than a cookie. Neither of those ever count as a ‘bag.'” She gave up on that strategy quickly enough (I’m pretty sure I caught some side-eye too) and retorted back, “Well, your carry on bag is still too big for the overhead. You’ll have to put it in the Size Check and if it doesn’t fit, you’ll have to gate check it.” I really think if she was 20 years younger, she would have put her hands on her hips, stomped her foot and said, “So THERE!” too.

Now, I know my carry on bag. It’s a Travelpro and I specifically bought that brand because it’s the one airline workers use specifically because it fits in the overhead 99% of the time, even when it’s completely stuffed. I also know I had my pillow in there and it’s made of memory foam. So as much as it squishes down when I zip the bag, it also puffs up once the bag is fully closed. And even then, because it easily squishes down again, it still fits in normal airline overhead space.

I wasn’t going to give this one up without a fight (those of you who know me personally would automatically know this would be the case). Besides knowing darn well it would fit, I also always have a full change of clothing in my carry on because I’ve had the experience of an airline losing my luggage for 24+ hours. Unfortunately, at four and a half feet tall, going out and buying a new outfit so I’d have clean clothes the next day just isn’t an option; I can’t wear brand new pants and shirts until they’re altered. So with the concern that my stuff could get sent to Phuket while I went to Phoenix, nope, I wasn’t giving up my carry on unless I absolutely had to.

She takes my bag from me and put it on top of the Size Check. “There, you see?,” said she of the obviously not having a good day and wanting to take it out on others. “It doesn’t fit. You’ll have to gate check it.” (you could almost hear the “neener, neener, neener” that wanted to come out at the end of that sentence)

“I assure you that it will fit,” I replied to Miss Looks Like She Smelled Something Bad. “And you didn’t even try to fit it into the Size Check, you just laid it on top. There’s a foam pillow in there and if you bothered at all to push the suitcase in, the pillow would have given way. But don’t worry, I’ll just take the pillow out right here.” Which I did. And then, of course, the carry on bag pretty much slid into the Size Check with room to spare, and I was allowed on my way.

So there I was, my computer bag on my shoulder, pulling my 2-wheeled carry on, with a cylindrically shaped travel pillow, Hudson News bag with a roast beef sandwich, chips and a soda in it AND now my full-size pillow in my hands (and tucked under an elbow as needed), too. I wouldn’t say it was a struggle but…OK yeah, it was a struggle. Especially since I wanted to keep my pillow from falling onto the floor because my head’s on that when I sleep and who knows what’s in or on that airport carpet, right? Anyway, a few feet away, another American employee said, “Are you OK holding all of that?” I told her I’d be fine but it sure was a lot easier before her co-worker over there (I pointed with my eyes and a directional nod of my head) insisted my carry-on wouldn’t fit in the overhead so I had to take my pillow out. She said, “What? You have a Travelpro. Of course, it would have fit!” I’m not sure, but I think she rolled her eyes a little. 

As it turned out, there was a delay on the jet bridge so while we waited, I took the opportunity to stuff my pillow back into my carry-on.

The bag still fit in the overhead just fine.

Take THAT, Miss Sourpuss!

Oh, and by the way? The SAME THING happened a few months later. And it happened at the same flippin’ airport, on the same flippin’ airline! Click here to read the story of what happened with THAT American gate attendant.

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10 thoughts on “No, My Carry On Bag Is NOT Too Big To Fit In The Overhead”

  1. Good one Sharon. Always know the rules and never put up with rude people. Being nice seems to be in short supply in the good old USA Today. Love your travel blog.

  2. What was the exact size of your travel pro with wheels etc? I have pieces that are super close and wondered what AA sizers are really allowing.

    1. The actual dimensions were fine – it was because of my pillow that it was “too wide” in her eyes. But hold on and I’ll go measure it

      1. Including wheels, hardware for wheels, handle, etc, 21.5 x 14.5 x 8 (the 8 – which expanded out to probably 10, but a “soft” 10, that could easily be squished back in because again, pillow – was the culprit. The rest of the bag fit fine)

  3. The carry on bag dilemma has been going on for me for many years. I have the SMALLESt bag – because it has wheels United flight attendants on the smaller crafts (CRJ’s, Embrar 145’s) tell me it wont fit. Then the next round is that it can be on because it has wheels, then if we get to a 3rd round it is the aircraft’s rules – IT FITS! Delta doesn’t have the same issue. I carry in my pocket the size dimensions, bag is always smaller, fits in every commercial aircraft I have been on. But, the fight continues. I almost had a canvas bag made to put the bag in so a flight attendant couldn’t see the wheels, isn’t that ridiculous?

    Bob, Rickshaw Journey

  4. Idk why but it seems like AA tries to start taking your luggage way before any other airline I fly. Just flew AA after a few years and I’ve never had my bag gate checked. Until the AA flight.

  5. Once I was on AA and they insisted gate checking in of carry on bags because the flight was too full. Baloney. In the confusion, I got inside the plane and found plenty of space to fit my bag.

    Another time (several times), AA was a bag nazi and insisted on the sizers. Mine fit. Once mine had a little trouble and they insisted that it must slide easily with no effort. What are they trying to accomplish, convincing me to fly WN or DL or AS? If a bag is not abusively large, it will fit. Even if an inch larger, it won’t result in another bag being excluded from the overhead bin.

  6. Has something similar happen at heathrow on a BA flight. Lets just call her the bag lady insisted that my luggage was to big to fit in the overhead, even though I it was designed to specifically to do just that. Then said bag lady quipped “You Americans and you large luggage” The irony was killing me because we’re flying on plane made in America and luggage was Victorinox which is Swiss (but probably made in China with everything else) and it was the same model of plane that we had flow in on with our carry on luggage in the overhead bin, so we knew it would fit. Needless to say it cost us about $100 to leave the country having to check our carry on luggage.

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