American Airlines Has Been Weighing Passenger Carry On Bags At The Gate. Here’s Why.

On Wednesday morning I learned that American Airlines passengers at New York LaGuardia were having to weigh their carry on bags at the gate prior to boarding certain flights operated by Embraer E-175 aircraft.

My first thought was to be concerned that American had a new program to limit carry on luggage. Many international airlines don’t just limit the size of bags brought onto the plane, but their weight as well. That means agents require passengers to check even a full standard-sized roller bag. You’re forced to wait for luggage at the end of the trip. And without airline status, you’re generally forced to pay for it, too.

However my second thought was that this could be a data project, and not anything designed to make the travel experience worse in ways that mirror Australia and some European markets. I asked American what was going on, and they told me it was,

..part of the regular survey required by the FAA to update our operations specifications that define the average weights used in our weight & balance/load planning process. Not a new process or anything changing for customers.

Airlines have to make assumptions about how much each passenger weighs, to go into preflight calculations and also determine how much fuel they’ll need. Every so often the FAA requires airlines to update these assumptions. One way this gets done is weighing passengers.

It’s not just passenger weight that matters – the weight of luggage on the plane matters, too. Small variance can matter on small planes, and while one passenger’s carry on bag weight may not make a material difference the weight of all passenger carryons can.

And it’s not just passengers! Airlines have to estimate the weights of crewmembers, crew uniforms, and crew bags, too.

It can be jarring to be told to weighh your carry on as you’re about to board, not just put it in the sizer to make sure its measurements are compliant. But it’s all part of updating data for safety.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. American Airlines might want to turn their focus to providing a stellar passenger experience as they raise prices on everything you touch and tightening up policies and implementing sword buckling technology. AAvoid at AAll cost if you can!

  2. Allow me to add … it is important to know actual weights of passengers, bags and cargo … Weight & Balance. So I will give that to any airline that aims for accuracy on this front.

  3. Thank you Joe. But before long the Wide Bodies are gonna get their way for two or three seats.

  4. Thanks Gary. Let’s avoid passenger meltdowns simply due to an airline collecting required safety data.

  5. Be it 5kg or 7kg or 10kg on international flights, you don’t have to pay a checked bag fee if you follow the rules and limit the weight of carry-on bags. It is really not hard to do. I usually carry other types of carry-on bags instead of roller bags since roller bags weigh a lot empty.

  6. How does the FAA account for people that don’t identify as either male or female or don’t identify as having a carry-on bag?

  7. American stole the frequent flyer miles I had accumulated over 30 years. Good luck getting me to fly them again. Ever.

  8. @Joe Casciola: Safety first. You write, “it is important to know [the] actual weights of passengers, bags, and cargo.” Accordingly, does the FAA need to add a line item for the additional weight of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) union pins or the “We are ready” neck lanyards worn by American Airlines flight crews?

    For weight and balance estimation, I recommend using 0.5 ounces or 14.1748 grams for each piece of bling to calculate max gross weight. Max gross weight isn’t necessarily a performance limitation. It is often a structural limitation. You might have the performance to take off, but the airframe may not be strong enough to handle turbulence and G-loading.

  9. It is a safety issue, especially on smaller planes. However, the average weight of a passenger has increased to the point that even 200 lbs might be light, then the airlines have increased the number of seats on planes. So something has to give and that would be luggage weight. Currently, most airlines restrict bags to 50 lbs and carry on to 40 lbs. I predict both will be decreased to 45 and 25 in the future.

  10. So many accurate comments above. From American airlines. Raising pricing to where, after many years,. I’m flying other airlines for my flight accommodations, to losing my status and not informing me beforehand, to many other minor issues that make flying American not an enjoyable experience anymore or my airline of choice any longer.. wing luggage for safety reasons I kind of agree with, but with all the other issues that have been experienced with American airlines in the last year or so, they are definitely not the premiere airline they used to be. They’re about three notches below that, and that pushes me to look elsewhere when needing to fly

  11. They should get the correct weight of bags and personnel for takeoff and landing. That’s safety. So AA is doing good. Title should be AA is running a safe airline.

  12. It does matter here in the northeast when humidity comes into play. A plane needs more runway to take off during humid weather the day in the dry winter. This is evident in PVD where they use the short runway part of the year and longer runway during the summer. A 747 can never go on that short runway but it can on the longer

  13. Don’t know why there’s so much hate with American Airlines. I’ve been Executive Platinum with them for years. They’ve had their ups and downs having gone through 9/11 then COVID. Air travel definitely isn’t what it used to be when even coach passengers were served hot meals, but people who complain about one airline should look at their choices and realize they’re all about the same. Some people obsess over Delta or Southwest. I’ve flown all of them (except Spirit. I don’t live in a city where Spirit frequents) and frankly they’re all pretty much the same when it comes to domestic travel and none can remotely compare with any Middle Eastern or Asian airlines. But think about it, I remember back in the late 90s to fly coach across the country was $300. Now? I just checked the AA website and it’s $377 JFK-LAX roundtrip. Why would anyone assume they’d get the same level of service compared with years ago? The primary job of an airline is to get you safely from point A to point B. If you want people to fawn over you then sure American will pretend to attempt to do so on the same flight for $2000. It is a business and it is what it is.

  14. This is not exclusive to American, or its regionals. Republic (DBA Delta Connection) was doing the same thing last week at LGA during boarding of my flight to DCA.

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