The secret to not having to gate check your bag ever again…

I’m sure many readers don’t face this issue because they have elite status, allowing them to board first, but if you’ve flown an airline with which you don’t have status (or do have status but are boarding late), you’ve no doubt run into the ridiculous “gate check” culture we’ve seen with US airlines over the past few years. Basically, those in high seating areas are encouraged to gate check their bags because there “won’t be overhead bin space.” Largely, in my experience, it comes down to a combination of laziness and lack of creativity… and gate agents not enforcing the carry-on limits.

Anyway, because I think gate checking has gotten out of hand, here’s a trick to avoid ever having to gate check your bag again. The next time you’re forced to gate check your bag you’ll be asked what your final destination is, because that’s where you’re supposed to pick up your bag. Come up with a destination you’ve only dreamed of… maybe Bora Bora, Kilimanjaro, or Vladivostok. You can book a singe reservation containing several airlines, and the agent has no way of verifying it on the spot (on the plane), so magically some overhead bin space will appear. I nearly guarantee it. There’s no way they’re going to gate check a bag on another airline, let alone one that isn’t a partner.

And for the record, I’ve only had to use this technique once. I was late boarding a flight, though seated in first class. At the door, the gate agent absolutely insisted I gate check my bag. I simply told her what my destination was (in my dreams… it was a redeye, making it all the more justifiable), and moments later I was let on with my bag. Not surprisingly, there was plenty of overhead bin space.

Filed Under: Advice
  1. Another suggestion, at least with United, is to book a window seat – – United puts all window seat assignments as boarding area 2 – – good enough to score room in the bin for your carry-ons if you don’t have status.

  2. I see that you have never had me for your boarding agent. I would be happy to check your bag to any destination you want. LOL

  3. Too risky. Some agents will take you seriously and tag your bag there, even if they don’t see the segments in your record. Lots of people book their domestic and international segments separately.

  4. Great suggestion, Lucky!

    @jpbeme Make it a complex itinerary with 4 segments. Lucky’s idea has real merit; hope I never have to try it, but I will do so if I need to.

  5. Nice one Ben… I have to agree that a complex connecting downline itin would make any agent think twice.

  6. I’ve heard (not sure if this is true or not) that you should ask to purchase excess valuation (insurance) on your checked bag because of “valuables” enclosed. They should be able to sell you that, but won’t want to take the time.

  7. I think the last suggestion is far better. You’re not lying and worst case they call your bluff and agree to sell it to you.

    From United’s COC’s

    “If you wish to declare a higher value beyond the stated limit of liability, additional insurance coverage can be purchased from a private insurance company or excess value insurance can be purchased from the airline(s). For further information, please contact your airline or insurance company representative.”

    I always carry a copy of the airline’s COC’s with me in hard copy when I travel. I know it sounds nuts but it has settled arguments about what is permissible at least twice. From now on I’ll be carrying this page separately with the appropriate section highlighted.

  8. Not a bad idea, though I’d be worried that with my poor luck, I’d get an agent who actually would do it! I kinda like gba’s suggestion, too.

  9. You have at least one reader without status, I really need to work harder on that. Thanks for the tip!

  10. Even with status and with a bag (Briggs and Riley) that i have carried with me for over 10 years, an overzealous gate attendant said it was too big to go in the overhead, coming out of CMH, and pushed to gate check…after a week on the road and heading home, i agreed, but have to believe your tactic will be needed in the future as airlines see the ability to start charging for gate checked luggage…watch for it…

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