Would You Want An Airline To Preload Your Carry-On Bags?

Filed Under: Delta

The boarding process on flights in the US can be a real pain, no doubt. While non-US airlines seem to be able to board A380s 30 minutes before departure with time to spare, some US airlines start boarding 737s 40 minutes before departure and still can’t seem to depart on-time.

There are a few factors contributing to this, though probably the primary one is that Americans have more hand luggage more than those in other countries, largely thanks to the checked bag fees and the lax enforcement when it comes to carry-on sizes.

We’ve seen airlines come up with concepts to speed up the boarding process, from encouraging passengers to gate check bags before boarding even starts, to allowing passengers without carry-ons to board early.

With that in mind, Delta is trialling a new concept to speed up boarding, whereby they’ll load your carry-on bag for you, And I just can’t wrap my head around it. Here’s part of the AP article (via USA Today), which even has some good quotes from Gary Leff:

Delta’s Early Valet service will offer to have airline employees take carry-on bags at the gate and put them in the bins above assigned seats. The airline wants to see if its own workers can load the bins faster than passengers.

The service began Monday on about two dozen flights, and that number is expected to rise steadily during June, Delta spokeswoman Morgan Durrant said.

Early Valet will be offered through August on some departures from Delta’s busiest airports — Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

It will be available only on flights that typically have a high number of vacationers. Presumably, business travelers know how to board a plane efficiently. Specially tagged bags will be stowed on the plane before boarding begins, Durrant said.

Delta tested the process last summer in Atlanta and Los Angeles and saw some reduction in boarding time, Durrant said.

Perhaps I just lack vision, but I can’t figure out how this would save any time:

  • Can anyone take advantage of Delta’s Early Valet service? If so, that seems like it would take quite some time to execute.
  • Doesn’t this disadvantage the travelers who don’t take advantage of the service, since they may have to gate check their bags in the end? In other words, if leisure travelers in the last groups all take advantage of this, those in lower number groups may end up having to gate check bags… which defeats the purpose of paying extra for early boarding.
  • Yes, perhaps this reduces boarding time, but does it reduce the overall turnaround time of a flight?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the concept in theory, and I’d even gladly let them load my carry-on for me. But I fail to see how Delta putting 150 bags into the overheads leaves us any better off than if individuals do… or how it saves them any money.


Does anyone see the merits of having your carry-on bags preloaded? What am I missing? 

  1. Granted a lot of people don’t efficiently load the overheads, bring on bags that are too big, etc, but how are you supposed to find your bag for unloading…

  2. I wonder if this will let them exclude a lot of bags for not meeting the sizing requirements. So I’m going to Florida on vacation and I normally shove my bag in sideways to fit. Delta promises to take care of it, and instead I get a note saying its been checked through to Orlando for not meeting the size limits. That would be pretty ingenious.

  3. One advantage would be presumably the Delta staff would understand what “wheels to the back” actually means, and not shove every bag in side-on in the most inefficient way possible.

  4. I love Delta, I do. But I also don’t get this plan.

    Those of us who fly all the time board and stow luggage fast. And I can’t imagine the people who donl’t fly a lot are going to understand this, want this, or be happy about it. I mean, I always chuckle when people get into the plane and immediately look confused trying to find a row number. Here’s a tip: Start counting at 1 – if you’re in 49G, you can’t pretty much walk quickly through the first class cabin. And yet they don’t. So how many questions will they have for the friendly DL employee who wants to take their bag, load it, and tell them it’s close to their seat?

    Now, DL is an operational pleasure, so what are they thinking that we can’t figure out?

  5. Having been on many flights where the traveler cannot even lift their bag or puts it in an overhead in a fashion that limits the number of bags that fit in this could be a good idea. Too often I have seen travelers who do not care about making the system work for everyone and will fill an entire bin with their own items for a single seat in the row.

  6. I’m not sure I like it. Do I leave my valuables in my carry-on or do I keep the most important things with me? I don’t mind gate checking since once your bag is gate checked, the only ones that deal with it are airlines employees (technically). But with that idea, passengers that board before me would have access to my bag before me…

    And I can also see all the people trying to see if there bags are in fact there when they board, or all the people that forgot something and want to get it in their bag…It will add some time to the process.

    I’m not a fan of this idea!

    I think that the best option is to enforce the size rule for carry-ons (not the weight rule!).

  7. I’m just laughing that Gary decided Morgan is a spokeswoman. I know Morgan personally, and while he’s a great guy, he’d make a pretty unattractive spokeswoman.

  8. Philadelphia to be served by Qatar Airways A350XWB starting January 1, 2016, according to Qatar Airways Instagram

  9. That service would be GREAT for the elderly or passengers who can’t load their luggage on the overhead cabin (due to strength or height issues.) I have no issues helping a fellow passenger load their suitcase up on the overhead cabin, but I’ve definitely seen a flight attendant kindly refusing to help a passenger load his suitcase carryon into the overhead cabin and this was in First Class! Mind you the FA does have a point that they don’t have to help a passenger load their carryon on the overhead cabin.

  10. As described, I see no point in it.

    However, I’d be highly interested in the ability to drop my bag with the desk in the lounge and have it preloaded for me. That would allow me to wait until the end of boarding to head to the gate without risking having to gate check my bag.

  11. As a DL PM, I get C+ seats and those now supposedly guarantee dedicated overhead bins. So there should be enough space for my to stow any carry-on and I have SkyPriority board anyway–I can board and load my luggage fast, if I decide not to check in, which I usually do because why not? Up to 3 bags for domestic flights and priority handling. If it takes longer than 20 minutes for my bags to come out, don’t I get some compensation miles now? This new valet service is great for elders and handicapped folks for sure.

  12. No wayyyyyyyyyy
    One theft I carry cash cards passport and valuables in my carry on
    These fools could load it on the wrong plane
    A passenger could decide to move it or a flight attendant
    Checked bags should within reason should be free and carry ons should be charged
    airlines have this backwards
    I would reusr

  13. I agree with Ryan – boarding 45 minutes before departure is for the birds! The only reason I do it is to ensure bin space. If my carryon could be loaded while I wait in the lounge, I’d be all for that. (Presumably pax would be able to hold on to a small, underseat bag containing valuables.)

  14. I like this idea. It could prevent two big problems: having passengers trying to board the plane from being held up by struggling people trying to load their stuff, and funding that the bin over your seat has already been stuffed with someone else’s stuff.

  15. Too many valuables in my carry-on. It doesn’t leave my site- after all, they already deny liability for list valuables, don’t they.

    Now if airlines like AA would guarantee quicker off loading of checked bags, more elites would check them leaving more room gir others.

  16. I don’t get how they operationalize this for anything beyond a very small number of people. My father used to be a senior official. When we traveled, staff would take our bags (including carry-on) in advance from our house so that we could be driven directly to the plane just before departure. I would be told at boarding that my carry-on was in the bin above 2A and B, for example. Even then, that made me nervous to have my belongings out of my control – even though they were handled by people that I knew. I don’t think I would entrust my carry-on valuables to DL staff for the reasons that several others pointed out.

  17. How will they monitor limits regarding one carry on and one personal item? If I Early Valet my roller board, how will GA know when I later board with two additional items? When I agree to Early Valet will my boarding pass somehow be flagged? And will gate agents really take the time to argue how i really have more than two items while I explain it really isn’t because one was the valuables removed to utilize Early Valet?

  18. Segments, great comment. It’s only a short matter of time before this system is abused and the airline ends up with a worse mess. I think they did not even consider the potential for abuse.

  19. “Trialling”? Please, for the sake of my dear 5th grade English teacher, Mrs. Kowalski, let’s write it right! I suggest “trying” or even “conducting a trial.” But otherwise, thank you for a nice article!

  20. I think it’s a good idea, because it will stop people from taking overhead space with bags that really ought to go under the seat in front, or should not go up there until the end of boarding (like hats and coats). Of course there would need to be a way to ensure that people with two carry-ons that fit under the seat still get a space overhead. Often delays are caused by running out of room, even when there are small bags overhead and nothing under the seat in front of their owners.

  21. They should simply switch the bags they charge for: the low-value operationally efficient ones in the hold should be free, while the highly valuable (to a certain segment of customers) and operationally inefficient carry-ons should be charged a (never waivable) fee.

    You will see much, much faster boarding and deplaning, much lower passenger stress (which translates into lower number of incidents and far higher customer satisfaction), lowers flight attendant injuries, safer crash landings (not as many heavy bags raining on passengers) and lower fares as flights can be scheduled with shorter ground turnaround times.

  22. This sounds like a slightly more convenient version of a checked bag. If this service is free, I’d be all for it.

  23. It doesn’t save them money, but it does earn them money. And isn’t that what everything Delta does these days have to do with?

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