I woke up this morning to a story entitled, “United passenger records heated exchange with ‘rude’ airline staff over carry-on bag” topping my airline travel news feed.
It is a incident that occurred in the check-in lobby of Chicago O’Hare. Natalia Rutkowski and her mother Anna were traveling on Basic Economy tickets, which permits them only one “personal” item as carry-on baggage.
To prevent confrontation at the gate, United has positioned agents in the check-in hall to check carry-on baggage size. A United agent named Sunday stopped the two, claiming that Anna’s purse was too big to be considered a carry-on item.
Watch the video below.
It seems to me this is a close-call. Absolutely, the bag fits in the sizer when squeezed in, but good luck sticking that bag under an economy class seat onboard, especially an aisle seat that barely has enough legroom for two legs.
United offers no clarification on whether the personal item must be easily dropped inside the sizer or can be gently squeezed in. In any case, the bag fit and was therefore properly admitted onboard. But it actually appears bigger than the 9″ x 10″ x 17″ limit.
I just don’t see the rudeness here. The United agent…to put it nicely…doesn’t appear to be the sharpest knife in the drawer…but I don’t sense hostility or rudeness. Do you? He’s not the one who raises his voice…
Natalia said, “There was a lot of fuss. I was agitated and there were a lot of people starting to stare.”
Yes, because you were filming it…
In a statement on the incident, United promised to investigate.
The customer was allowed to carry on her bag. We have reached out to this customer directly and are reviewing this incident with our team to better understand what happened.
The United agent was wrong. There is no defending his stubbornness when the bag fit. But based on the video it seems he was far less rude than the headline suggests. And I don’t blame the agents for being skeptical that a large carpet bag would fit in the personal item sizer.