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11:34am on Friday, 27th October, 2006:

Dr Bartle Goes to Washington


I'm off to Washington DC for a meeting this Sunday. It's only in Washington because there's a conference going on there that some of the other participants are at already  I'm not consulting for some US government agency or anything. Although the meeting is on Sunday, it'll take me Saturday to get there and (because of time differences) Monday and 25% of Tuesday to get back.

As I'm only there for one day, I really don't want to take hold luggage. Hand luggage is all I need. However, what with recent reports of people wanting to blow up aeroplanes using, oh, coins, snuff, tulips, elastic bands, the air that we breathe and human hair, I wasn't sure whether or not hand luggage was still allowed if it was bigger than your hand. I consulted thelatest security information and learned that hand luggage is OK if it fits in a box 56cmx45cmx25cm. The bag I was planning to use is close on the 25cm but well within range on the other two. I'd link you to the security page to show you but it uses a session ID and won't work if I strip it out.

Poor web site design aside, this seems fair enough: being able to fit your bag in a box of fixed dimensions seems an eminently sensible way of ensuring that all hand luggage can be tested quickly and easily.

Hmm, "eminently sensible" ... maybe I'd better check what the US authorities do, too, just in case...

OK, so I had a look at US regulations and they are indeed different, although the same in the sense that they too use session IDs that won't work if I strip them out. For flights within the USA, hand luggage is treated using the concept of "dimensional inches": you add up the height, width and depth of your bag and if the total comes to more than 45 inches (114cm) you have to put it in the hold. For international flights, the same rule applies in addition to the 56cmx45cmx25cm rule. Given that 56+45+25=126, this means your luggage could be OK flying to the USA from the UK but be too big to come back. It also means they can't use a "put it in the box" approach for measurement, because it could fit in the box and still be illegal.

This isn't to say the UK is in all ways superior. When we went to Italy for our holidays, I took the same bag and they asked me to put it into a box to show it was within carry-on limits. The box was in 3D landscape format, in that the width was greater than the height which was greater than the depth. I stood my bag up in it and it fitted fine. However, the bag was in portrait format, its height being greater than its width which was greater than its depth. The official made me take it out and lie it down on its side, as if it might not fit that way. I complied, as in my experience little good comes of calling officials stupid to their faces. I still got a look of, "OK, well I'll let you through this time, but don't try that again" from her, though.

I expect queues...

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Copyright 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).