Carry-on a smidge too big

I went off on Sept. 22, 2009, with my new luggage, an Eagle Creek Tarmac 22, expecting the carry-on piece to stay with me throughout my trip to Edinburgh and England. I travel light and never check my bag.

On the very first flight, aboard a United Skywest Airlines plane, the overhead could not accommodate my carry-on. The crew had to remove my luggage and utilized their “à la carte” service, meaning the bag would be made available to me on the tarmac upon arrival. The very same thing happened on that same plane back to Medford on Oct. 8.

When I returned home, I checked the tag from the Tarmac 22. On the front is a very prominent “carry-on” symbol (a circle within which there is an airplane and above which is the word “Carry-On”), but inside the tag I discovered a disclaimer, which I missed the first time around, stating that the luggage was carry-on on “most” planes.

Then I checked the tag for measurements and found that instead of the standard 9"x14"x22" I had expected, this case is 9½"x 14"x22". Because of the prominent “carry-on” symbol, it did not cross my mind to check the fine print.

I phoned Eagle Creek to express my belief that their tag is misleading. I felt their rep was very rude; she actually asked me, “What do you want?”

I said, “A manufacturer that cares if it’s not meeting the needs of its customers.”

She proceeded to tell me that a member of their staff had the same problem but that when an item was removed from the bag, it fit in the overhead. It seems to me she was implying that my Tarmac was overstuffed. That was not the case. I had not even used the zippered expand system. In fact, the bag did not fit because of the way the wheel system was designed.

When I contacted the local luggage store, I received a sympathetic response but was told that if I wanted luggage that was guaranteed to fit in all overhead cabinets, I would need to purchase a smaller piece. Of course, this would seriously limit packing space to less than what already qualifies as light.

The other point I made to the merchant is that, in the future, they need to explain this to customers who are considering buying this particular piece or any other “carry-on” that does not meet standard measurements. I reminded him that they are putting their reputation behind Eagle Creek products and need to qualify their sales pitch.

I’m stuck with the Tarmac bag, which is satisfactory in every other respect.

Lesson learned — read the fine print!

JUDITH STEVENS

Medford, OR

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Eagle Creek and received the following reply.

Although it’s not often, when we hear feedback that our customers aren’t fully satisfied or run into travel problems with any of our products, we take it to heart.

It is unfortunate in today’s travel world that the term “carry-on” is a confusing and inconsistent one. While travelers would naturally expect a single meaning and standard, in fact there are many “standards,” which causes confusion for many travelers, in particular those less experienced.

A commuter plane, which, it seems, is the kind Ms. Stevens was on, has much smaller storage areas, and passengers are often required to gate-check items that they typically carry onto a full-size airliner.

Storage overhead bins, even on larger-capacity domestic airliners, differ from plane to plane and sometimes from left side to right side of the aisle on the same plane. Domestic airlines are responsible for defining their own carry-on baggage restrictions and they differ somewhat from carrier to carrier.

International travel is, again, a completely different story. European carry-on size is generally regarded as a 20-inch bag and in Japan, an 18-inch. In the US, a 22-inch bag is generally regarded as a carry-on, but not all 22-inch uprights will fit into all planes, as we’ve mentioned, which is why we state, “meets ‘most’ carry-on requirements” on our 22-inch bags.

Unfortunately, in this confusing carry-on environment, the burden of research falls on the consumers, who, if they want to ensure 100% carry-on compatibility, must research each airline’s independent (and often changing) regulations as well as the specific type of plane they are flying on. Not a simple task!

I also want to note that many of our travelers prioritize maximum packing capacity over absolute carry-on assurance, because they want to pack as much as possible in a 22-inch bag. So we attempt to design as much packing space as possible while still meeting most prevalent carry-on standards.

We do also offer smaller, 20-inch carry-on sized luggage for those who want to have more assurance of compliance. However, this is still not guaranteed.

In the end, we encourage concerned travelers to research regulations as we continue to make durable and lightweight gear that maximizes packing space to accompany travelers on their journeys.

In regards to Ms. Stevens’ experience with our customer service, it is very rare that we have any comments other than accolades. We approach our service like we approach each product we make, with the highest importance. We’re sincerely sorry she had that experience.

RICKY SCHLESINGER, Executive Vice President, Eagle Creek, Inc., 3055 Enterprise Ct., Vista, CA 92081