United Airlines Getting Rid Of Bag Sizers At The Gate

United Airlines will remove bag sizers from boarding gates by January 23. They say they will be more aggressive at check-in and that sizers will remain at security checkpoints, but that at the gate agents are supposed to ‘use their judgment’.

This seems like it’s ripe for problems. Already we see plenty of confrontations over the size of carry on bags. The agent says a bag is too large, the passenger says they bring that same bag on flight after flight all year long. The sizer is supposed to be the neutral arbiter. A 21 inch bag may be allowed, but what about when those 21 inches don’t include the wheels?


    Credit: United

Gate agents using their judgment will mean greater variance from flight to flight, although it also may mean less enforcement in some cases too. American Airlines had to ramp up auditing of carry on bags in response to FAA demands when the government said that American wasn’t enforcing its filed carry-on baggage program. Will United face similar challenges?

Of course United’s bag sizers have been an inch larger than what’s actually permissible so the sizers allowed customers to bring on bags that the rules said they shouldn’t.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I don’t understand why airlines don’t charge for carry-on bags and instead give free checked luggage. It’s more logical.

  2. What if they provided the option to carry-on -OR- to check it for free during check-in (for ~22″ carry-on size / weight)? I feel like a lot of economy passengers would opt for the free option to check their bag — especially on direct flights. This could be a way to make everyone happy: passengers traveling with normal luggage can avoid baggage fees, boarding is faster, the cost of “free” checked luggage is limited, and airlines can earn revenue on additional or extra bags.

    I can understand the whole unbundling thing. It’s easier to advertise lower fares than what’s included in a fare. And, I’m sure the extra revenue from baggage fees is great for airlines. When people need to bring a lot with them, they will pay up.

    But, I don’t understand how it’s more efficient to use a single aisle and limited overhead compartments all while 100-200 people board to load a narrow body plane with most of its luggage. Most travelers will have some sort day bag (e.g., back pack, messenger bag, purse) and luggage that is 22″ or less. So, we know that most domestic flights will need 100-200 pieces of carry-on sized luggage loaded. Why not decouple this from the boarding process? If they’re of normal size and weight, why not check them for free? A plane on the ground is far more expensive to an airline than some agents orchestrating an efficient transfer of luggage from passenger to plane.

    In East Asia, domestic/regional flights board in 10-15 minutes – even on large widebodies. Practically no one brings any luggage on board. If they do, it’s like commuter train sized luggage (18″ or less). Nearly everything else is checked.

  3. And be sure the emotional support bag is riding in a wheelchair to assure you and the bag get early boarding. Should a miracle cure occur you can ditch the wheelchair when you disembark the plane.

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