As if gate agents weren’t already under enough pressure during the boarding process, here’s something else they can add to their duties…
Oversized gate checked bags will cost you
View from the Wing reports that American Airlines has a new policy for gate checking bags. Effective immediately, if you gate check a bag on American Airlines and it doesn’t fit in the carry-on sizer, you’ll be asked to pay a checked bag fee for it.
There are a couple of things to be aware of with this new policy, though:
- The fee won’t apply to those who are entitled to free checked bags, including premium cabin passengers, AAdvantage elite members, co-branded credit card members, etc.
- Gate agents are supposed to charge this unless the process of collecting the fee would cause a departure delay
As it’s explained, this new policy is intended to “create a consistent customer experience for those who bring non-compliant bags to the gate.”
For context, when you’re flying you’ll often hear gate agents offering to gate check bags complimentary, to avoid a delay during boarding due to too many carry-ons. That will presumably continue. However, there are also some passengers who are pulled over and asked to place their bag in the “sizer,” and the bags that don’t fit will be the ones that are charged for.
My take on American’s policy change
On the surface I don’t think this policy change is unreasonable. People are essentially given an incentive to try to take their oversize bag through security and to the gate to avoid checked bag fees.
Up until now if people could get their oversized bags to the gate:
- Best case scenario they could carry them on for free
- Worst case scenario they could gate check them for free
This policy change doesn’t seem unfair to me, and for that matter at least American isn’t being punitive. Spirit Airlines, for example, charges more to gate check a bag than to check a bag otherwise, which isn’t totally unreasonable. Then again, Spirit is exceptionally clear about its baggage policy.
All that being said, I feel sorry for gate agents, and I don’t see this ending well. Many customers choose to argue endlessly when they’re told their bag is too big to fit on the plane, and that’s when there’s no cost involved. “But I flew with this bag last time.” “I’m never flying American again.” “But I’m an AAdvantage member.” “You’re telling me this big plane can’t fit this bag, what’s wrong with you?”
Now customers are going to be told that they not only have to gate check their bags, but have to pay for this? I really don’t see this ending well, especially with the increase in rage we’ve seen among so many air travelers in recent months.
American Airlines will start charging checked bag fees when passengers show up at the gate with oversized bags, assuming they’re not entitled to free checked bags. Personally I think this policy change is fair, at least on the surface, but my concern is how passengers will react, and the impact that has on gate agents.
What do you make of American’s policy change for oversized carry-on bags?