Check your luggage or carry on? Readers have their say

(CNN) — Forget “Lord of the Flies.” If you want to see nature red in tooth and claw, lock a bunch of humans inside a pressurized tube for eight hours and see how quickly they divide into factions.

With check-in travelers on one side and carry-on devotees on the other, it’s a darn good thing weapons aren’t allowed in the airplane cabin.

We asked CNN Travel readers to tell us where they stand the on the great luggage debate, after two CNN staffers laid out the pros and cons.

Your answers were impassioned, thoughtful and informative. We had close to 500 responses, and they divided into three camps.

Check-in enthusiasts were the biggest group, at 37%, carry-on aficionados made up 33% of the feedback, and 30% of people said, “it depends on the trip.”

See what readers had to say below. (Responses have been edited for brevity).

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Check-in fans love that they can glide hassle-free throughout the airport and say that it takes a lot of the stress out of traveling.

“I work for an airline and travel frequently. I try to pack light but always check in my bag, even if it is carry-on size, as I hate carrying luggage through security and the airport.” (Alketa).

Weight expectations

When traveling for long periods or to a cold climate, it’s difficult to squeeze all your goods into a carry-on. Also, plenty of travelers have special requirements — medical equipment, baby strollers, canes, you name it — and pared-down packing simply isn’t an option.

Then there’s the simple fact that some of us are bigger than others. “I am a pretty big guy and those rinky-dinky carry-ons just don’t cut the mustard for me.” (English on Delivery, Japan.)

Unfair policy

Many people have physical difficulties which simply prevent them from reaching up to put luggage in an overhead bin.

“Forcing the disabled, height-challenged and elderly to pay for a checked bag is discriminatory.” (Terry Schumann, Sylva, NC.)

“What to do when you’re a disabled person who must carry extras and/or replacement items in case something important is lost or broken? Two different airlines broke my rolling walker and I had to use a cane (tucked into checked luggage) until I found another. Airlines very, very often refuse to help.” (Austin, Texas.)

Liberate our legs

A common frustration of those who’ve checked in their bags is then being asked to put their carry-on bag under the seat in front in order to make room for carry-on passengers’ suitcases in the overhead bin. “Not only is this uncomfortable, but I’m potentially smashing anything in there with my feet,” Says Nick from Suburban Chicago.

Free the aisle

Our readers hate it when people block the aisle while loading or unpacking bags. “The overhead hassles (not to mention competition) are annoying at best and life-threatening at worst,” says Jim Steele, pointing out that it can hinder an emergency evacuation.

Check in and avoid the line

“I can afford to just wait out the boarding zone calls. I bide my time until all the overhead crammers are on, and finished (protecting my head from those people trying to catapult their carry ons above me).” (Lesley Peter, Yucatan, Mexico).

People love Southwest

Southwest Airlines is adored by some fliers for its check-in bag policies.

Southwest Airlines is adored by some fliers for its check-in bag policies.

AFP/Getty Images/File

A lot of readers travel with checked luggage for free thanks to credit cards linked to airlines. There was also a huge amount of love for Southwest Airlines.

“I really wish that fewer airlines ripped people off with baggage charges, and more were like Southwest with their two free checked bags. If you’ve ever flown on Southwest you know that there’s plenty of overhead bin space and boarding goes faster even on a full flight because people can check a bag without paying through the nose.” (Dave Sturtz, Gold Hill, Colorado.)

Traveling for business

“In the past, carry-on was the smart business traveler move, but now EVERYONE has a carry on. Now you join the fight for overhead space, the hell that is the TSA check, and the dreaded wait in a unorganized line when they have gate-check.” (John Gibson, Omaha NE.)

Packing light and re-using clothing isn’t an option when you’re “trying to make an impression in a business environment. When your schedule is crammed, then you pack the same, leaving nothing for chance.” (Judith Ganes, Panama City, Panama.)

Gate check-in: The case for and against

“Any time I fly, I pack a carry-on. Once I reach the gate, the staff inevitably asks for volunteers to check their bags — for free (and I gratefully indulge).” (Jessalyn Goodman, Cincinnati, OH.)

“With low-cost airlines, there’s always a chance your carefully packed carry-on luggage gets thrown into check-in at the counter.” (Dr. Gopinath, Hyderabad, India.)

“The airlines have forced the current AWFUL situation. Most people know they can gate-check their carry-on for free, so now the gate area functions like the check-in counter used to, and the jetway is now like baggage claim. It’s crowded, slow, stupid, and just a terrible experience.” (Andrew, Madison, WI.)

Rhonda Howard from Chicago: “My vote is that everyone has to pay for their luggage… or no one does.” (Rhonda Howard, Chicago).

Checked luggage weight is important

“Pilots need to figure luggage weight into the weight and balance of the aircraft. Check your bags, give the pilots the data they need, keep a baggage handler employed, save your back, board with ease and slow down.” (Gina from Maryland, retired flight attendant.)

Keep calm and carry on

Sometimes checking those bags is the only option.

Sometimes checking those bags is the only option.

Getty/ Alexander Hassenstein / Staff

Show me the money

“I refuse to pay extra for something that was once free.” (Erika Orejola Orange, Ca.)

Save time

Carry-on aficionados love that they can arrive at the airport in extra-squeaky time and skip out quicker too. It can also make it easier to make a tight connection.

“E-tickets plus no check-in queues and no baggage claim let me shave at least an hour of airport experience each way. That’s worth every bit of inconvenience I have in needing to carefully fold my clothes.” (Stephen, UK).


“When flights are canceled/delayed, and you stand in line to be rebooked, they will often ask ‘Do you have checked baggage?’ If you are only holding a carry-on, they have more flexibility in re-routing your flights.” (Quin Wetzel, Cincinnati, OH.)

Derek from Florida got stuck in a bag-drop line for more than an hour and, having missed his flight, was put on standby. “I did not end up making it to my destination, as all flights were full. At least my checked bag had a nice visit to St. Louis, while I stood waiting standby at the airport.”

Board early

However, passengers said they had to board early — either by getting in line, buying priority boarding, or having airline status — if they were to be certain of getting their bags in the bin.

“The simple fact is that the higher your status on the airline the sooner you get on the plane. The low status/no status passengers will be checking their bags at the gate.” (Art, USA).

Take back control

While check-in fans love feeling liberated from their bags, carry-on devotees say they enjoy feeling in control of where they and their luggage are going and when. Smart packers had plenty of tips to offer, from ziplock bags to packing cubes to solid conditioner for hair.

“Wear your nicest outfit on the plane. In addition to saving a lot of space, you tend to get treated better.” (H. Green, Chicago, IL.)

Paring down

“With a checked bag I usually end up with clothes/shoes I never touch, and realize when unpacking that I really didn’t need them.” (Sandy Tello, Houston.)

“It’s easier to navigate once you arrive at your destination. As a 5’1 solo traveler it’s not feasible for me to drag a suitcase nearly as big as me around cobblestone streets, subways and buses.” (Heather Shank, Louisville, KY.)

Keep luggage lovely

“Luggage is so pretty when you first buy it. By the time it’s made one trip in a cargo hold, it floats down the little conveyor belt in a baggage claim with dents, black marks, scrapes, and broken locks.” (Allison, Houston, TX.)

Precious things

A lot of people — especially those with expensive camera equipment or vital medication — like to keep everything close by.

“Whatever indifference airlines have towards their passengers, multiply it for their luggage.” (Joshua Mellin, Chicago.)

“On the rare occasion I have checked a bag and been separated from it, it’s nice to know I won’t die in some strange place without clean underwear.” (Chip Brown).

Once bitten, twice shy

“After you have had luggage not show up (in some cases never getting it back) numerous times you just ensure you will have it at your destination by carrying it on.” (Gail).

The squeezed middle

Around a third of people who responded said that there were a range of factors affecting their decision to go check-in or carry-on: price, duration of trip, time of year, whether they were packing gifts and so on.

And the main thing everyone had in common? A call for consideration for one’s fellow passengers.

Obey the rules

“I am enraged at the size of carry-ons people bring onto planes.” (Charlotte, Fairfax, VA).

“I had an experience in which a guy broke the luggage bin trying to close the door on an oversized case. It cost over an hour of delay to repair the bin.” (Mark A. Butterworth, Muscatine, IA).

Don’t hog the bins

“Unfortunately, there are passengers who have seats near the back of the plane who like to stow their carry-ons closer to the front so they don’t have to deal with them in the narrow aisles. Common courtesy would dictate that everyone place their carry-on in the compartment over their seat.” (Jim from Germany.)

Charge for carry-ons?

“I think airlines should charge for carry-ons and make checked bags free, to streamline boarding and deplaning.” (Frank Perch, Philadelphia). Diane in

“I would vote for seat-assigned, strictly size limited overhead compartments which cost money to book.” (Ruech, Munich.)

“The challenge these days is knowing what airline allows what. Gone are the days when virtually every airline had the same rules.” (Ken McLeod, Ayrshire, Scotland.)

An alternative

“I send my baggage with Federal Express etc to my hotel and back in a sturdy aluminum case. That way you can take anything.” (Fran Gerber).

This article originally appeared here