American Will Soon Stop Making You Gate Check Your Carry On Bags

American Airlines is squeezing 172 seats into all of their Boeing 737s. These same planes had 150 seats before US Airways management took over the airline.

They accomplish this by squeezing seats closer together (even in first class) and taking back space from the lavatories and galleys. There are no seat back video screens, and there aren’t even any ovens in the back galley so coach flights to Brazil don’t get hot meals. They’re planning to put a similar interior into their Airbus A321 aircraft as well.

The airline talks about creating a ‘living room experience’ with faster inflight wifi that allows streaming video to your phone while sitting in cramped seats.

However in addition to faster internet American’s 737s and A321s are also getting bigger overhead bins.

Have you ever sat at the gate area and had an agent announce that everyone in the last couple of boarding groups would have to gate check their bags? And have you then boarded and found there was plenty of bin space?

  • American wants to depart exactly on time. They are willing to inconvenience customers to do it.

  • Gate agents get yelled at by managers over delays. Their ‘Success at the Gate’ metrics depend on it also.

  • Gate checking bags can take time. If passengers are allowed to board with bags and discover there’s no space, checking the bags can be the difference between a D0 departure and one that hurts employee metrics and makes President Robert Isom angry.

  • So agents figure it’s better to make customers check their bags just in case bins wind up full. That will get the plane out on time and keep them from getting yelled at by managers.

American’s new ‘torquemada interior’ (as I call ‘Project Oasis’) comes with bigger bins, though, where there’s enough space for each passenger to have a standard sized rollaboard onboard. So as long as each passenger only brings their allowable carry on bags and stows their personal item under the seat there should be no need to check a bag.

  • Agents won’t have to tell customers bins are full when they aren’t really full, just in case

  • Ironically while this new interior could help with on time metrics by avoiding gate checking bags it also removes one of the key reasons to get an American Airlines co-brand credit card — early boarding. You don’t need to board early if everyone on the plane will have space for their bag.

As more and more planes are converted to this interior American has added a notice to agent screens at the gate letting them know the plane has the torquemada interior and there’s no need to make passengers gate check bags in advance.

This has been in place since December 11th. Have you flown a new densified American Airlines plane since then, and have you noticed agents allowing all passengers to board with their carry on bags?

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. […] Some people used to take their bag that they planned to check through security, and just turn it over at the gate. Usually they’d hope that the agent would announce a voluntary program to check bags, since there won’t be enough overhead bin space for everyone. These offers will still be free (though much more rare since American’s new domestic interior includes larger overhead bins that can fit more bags). […]


  1. People will still put in their bags wrong (i.e. flat instead of on their sides)… Maybe that’s what American should have included in their campaign a while back on what their best fliers do.

  2. Counterpoint: passengers will continue to stuff their coats, duffels, and other odd shaped items up top and gate checking will not go away.

  3. Like AT&T in the past . Since American carriers have such a distain for their passengers . Maybe it’s time to break them up or have foreign carriers fly domestic to show how it’s done right . God. I miss Pan Am, Eastern, Braniff, TWA. They at least had some semblance of passenger service and quality . I’m for foreign carriers to fly within the states.

  4. Passengers will also continue to put their rollaboards flat taking extra space and not sideways unless the FA makes frequent announcements.

  5. The whole gate checking bags when there is plenty of space is really infuriating. Glad to see AA starting to do away with it. I remember flying Dallas to SF on United. I was one of the last people to board. They started saying that there was no overhead bin space and only bags that would fit under the seat would be allowed. A family in front of me was a bit distraught by this. They seemed to have had a really rough travel experience so far and I believe they had been rebooked on my flight. Well their new flight had an overnight layover. All of their stuff was in their carry ons (which were not big, but were hard rollers, just to mention) and they said due to it being a connecting flight they wouldn’t get their luggage in SF. It seemed like would have to hand carry all their necessities on board. They all stepped aside and the agents called a manager (the parents were frustrated but weren’t aggressive). I finally get to the front of the line and was ready to hand over my carry on, which was a big backpack, bigger than the family’s luggage. The agent told me there was no need since that would fit under the seat (it would not have). I get on board and ~30% of the overhead bins were still free. With maybe less than 20 people still boarding there was no need to inconvenience so many. Of course there might have been 30% free because they started checking bags but I just remember it seemed to add insult to injury. They family did board but not sure what happened.

  6. i certainly don’t miss the bad ole’ days when smoking was allowed. the so called “good” airlines are all heavily constrained : Alaska is useless if you do any flying that doesn’t involve pacific or mountain time, jetblue is basically non-existent in the middle, and southwest have virtually no transcons on major routes and still couldn’t figure out how to fly to Hawaii.

    i basically gave all my business to jetblue in the mid 2000s, but now their prices are all at equilibrium with the others, and i don’t find their free wifi all that compelling anymore.

  7. I’ve flown on this a few times and I can’t recall about the message. I do notice that D0 is tough to achieve with these new interiors as all the extra people that need to board on a full flight eat up the last 10 minutes and on these reconfigured planes they are closing the doors closer to D+1 or D-1 instead of around 7-8 minutes before departure.

    Also why do AA’s electronic boarding passes now show “SEE AIRPORT MONITORS” for boarding time? How is that remotely helpful?

  8. I was on one of these planes. No one was loading the bins correctly. Even with FA assistance the bins wouldn’t shut. It clogged the aisles. Maybe with time it will get smoother.

  9. Just because this message displays to the gate agents doesn’t mean they will actually notice, OR CARE! These GAs are a surly bunch (much like some FAs) and they aren’t going to change their ways just to improve the passengers’ bidding experience.

  10. An airplane with overhead bins

    large enough to hold all hand

    luggage reduces passenger

    stress and speeds up the boarding process

  11. AA management is clueless.
    get rid of baggage fees and your boarding time will decrease. no fees = less carry-ons.
    Crappy leadership trickles down to poor service.
    unless I’m given tickets, I won’t ever fly AA.

  12. I believe most problems with space for carry-on luggage was self inflicted. When the airlines chose to charge for checked bags, travelers began to carry on all their luggage to save money. I would bet that the cargo holds are often far from full, as is evidenced by the airline’s willingness to gate check bags.

  13. More carry on bags, more seats, and higher check bag fees all lead to more gridlock. First at security and than during boarding ( with signal aisle aircraft ) can take 30+ minutes. Next if near back of aircraft it can take 10-15 minutes to deplane making impossible to make a 30-40 minute conection with the “Door closing 10 minutes prior to departure”.

  14. Have been on a couple of these aircraft and the bins are taller so suitcases go in on their side and not their back. Getting people to do this seems to be difficult even with multiple announcements so the extra room has not meant more bags fitting.

  15. On the monitors at the gate they should loop a video clearly showing how to store your bags on board that it could be done blindly (and people will puke about the never ending video loop).

  16. On DL flight this week and pax were correctly stowing their luggage in the new space bins. No announcement to do so. I think people are learning organisms and this will eventually work. I do think these bins make the cabin feel a little more claustrophobic (and watch your head getting out of your seat with the bin open) but this is a price worth paying for more luggage stowage.

  17. What is next? Everyone can bring on luggage too big, the insanity of beginning boarding 10 minutes before posted boarding time, seats more crammed, mini bathrooms… Doug Parker has destroyed a good airline. My DH who has been EP for years has other options for flying and has been doing so since last year.

  18. AA confiscated my hand luggage in April (and overhead was empty). i had travelled from australia – and the LAX – PHL flight was full so they insisted my bag be checked (and then stress if bag would make further connecting flight) – so unfair. my international travel insurance does not cover valuables which are checked so hence i put them in my hand luggage. travelling from australia with 3 connecting flights – often luggage miss connections that is why we put valuables etc in hand luggage. does United do this? AA should not do this for those who are jetlagged and travelling to/from international destinations.

  19. This article is NOT accurate, I just boarded flight 458 from DCA to Miami June 27, 2023 and this very RUDE AA employee said she could book me on a later flight if I didn’t allow her to gate check my bag (and my two kids). We packed only carry ons and no check in luggage bc we are flying internationally and do not want to miss our connection or have any items missing for this trip. She said we are the last group and therefore cannot take our carry on. This is very unfair since we paid the same fare as others who are taking their carry ons. I have medical equipment that is expensive and in case of an emergency I will not have it with me. If AA would just enforce travelers putting only carry ons into the bins and not plastic bags or personal items, the issue would not persist. Also, if passengers were only permitted to place their luggage in the bins above their assigned seats the problem would be solved. AA, get it together. Train flight attendants to police the bins fairly. Make that part of their job to ensure fair treatment to all or give credit back to all those passengers who are inconvenienced by gate checking. Or, charge EXTRA to all those passengers taking up more than their allotted space.

Comments are closed.