Earlier this week, I received the following mind-blowingly boring email about carry-on regulations from American Airlines:

Dear Jaime [Argh, I have a double name!] Fowler,

We know that for many of our customers it is very important to know what to expect while traveling so that they can better plan their trip. Thus, in advance of the busy summer travel season, we are providing the following information regarding American’s carry-on baggage policies.

One key aspect of an airline’s carry-on baggage policy is that it must be consistent with the policy officially filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Our carry-on baggage policy is summarized below and can be reviewed in its entirety at www.aa.com/travelInformation/carryOnAllowance.

In addition to being in compliance with the FAA, it is important to us and our customers to avoid last-minute delays related to checking baggage at the gate. With that in mind, we have placed baggage “sizers” at curbs, check-in counters, and security access points to assist customers and our airport employees in determining whether or not certain belongings may be carried on board in accordance with our policy. Please note that overhead bins on some of our aircraft may accommodate differently sized baggage; however, the size of the carry-on item as specified in the FAA filing is the key factor and the “sizers” are designed in accordance with those specifications.

We value our customers’ time and travel experience. The carry-on baggage policy is intended to maximize convenience while satisfying the FAA’s requirements. We hope that you find this information helpful and very much appreciate your cooperation on this important matter.

Thank you for your business.

American Airlines

Tip: For greater accessibility in flight and upon arrival, and to maximize the availability of space on board, aim to use the bin over your seat for your larger carry-on bag, while reserving the space under the seat in front of you for a personal item.
Policy Summary: When traveling within the United States, each customer may carry on one bag plus one personal item, space permitting. The carry-on bag must not exceed 45 inches when adding length plus width plus height. A personal item is a smaller item such as a purse, briefcase, laptop or similarly-sized bag or tote. Bags and personal items that fit in an American Airlines baggage sizer will comply with FAA-approved policy.

I have to say despite the fact that I flew United, I think this email may have been in direct response to some of the people I saw traveling this past weekend. On Sunday, when going through security on return, I saw all kinds of people trying to get bags that were too big through X-ray machines or walking through the sensors not realizing they had wallets, cell phones, keys, or other random pieces of metal in their jeans. One woman directly behind me put a full-sized Dasani water bottle on top of her laptop in one of the security bins and was saying to another passenger “I’m so glad they allow water now” as we passed a trashcan full of water bottles, soda cans, and other banned liquids.

In my head a flutter of questions: Seriously? You understood that you needed to take out your laptop and disaggregate all of your makeup, but you thought a full bottle of water would be a good idea? Something that for years has not been allowed on planes? What memo did you think you received that liquids are now allowed on flights? Did you see the 15 signs on the way from the entrance to security?

Don’t get me wrong, I know this stuff can be confusing. I myself have almost had it out with numerous security personnel over everything from whether “cream cheese” is a liquid (according to Monterey airport it’s not, but San Jose it is) and whether when you have your wallet in your hand to show your ID it’s considered a third bag—don’t even get me started on that.

So I appreciate that sometimes it helps to test the system—why not see if this bag marked ‘over-size’ goes through the X-ray machine? Why not try to bring your personal gallon milk jug through security? But there are some basics that if you travel frequently enough, are just no-brainers. And for those that missed the posted signs, the questions at check-in, the announcements from security personnel,  and the death stares of other passengers as they judge your filled water bottles (i.e., me), there are always friendly, albeit mind-numbing reminders from American.

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