WATCH: United Argues With Passenger Over Purse That Clearly Fits in Bag Sizer

A passenger flying United from Chicago O’Hare to Newark on United got into an argument with staff over the definition of ‘is’ about whether their purse fit in the bag sizer as a personal item. Even though it clearly fits.

The first employee says it doesn’t fit even while the bag is inside the sizer. In the continuation of the video (click at the right inside the video below) a second staff member declares “you can’t force it down.” (That’s not actually a rule.)

United has bag sizers to test whether your personal item is no more than “9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm)”. If it fits you must acquit.

    Credit: United

The second staff member then relents, “Why wasn’t that in there before? That’s fine.”

Nonetheless, the passenger approached this wrong. They’re debating an employee at a baggage sizer that isn’t beside the boarding gate. Just thank them for their time and walk away. The only people who matters when it comes to bringing the bag onboard are the agents actually working the flight.

(HT: Jeffrey Preis)

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. “The only people who matters when it comes to bringing the bag onboard are the agents actually working the flight.”

    While this is true in the normative sense, it may not always be the case. I seem to remember a post on OMAAT where a lady guarding the TSA queue at MIA wouldn’t let him pass with a compliant carry-on bag because she thought it was “muy grande.”

  2. Funny — blue jacket guy at BOS made a huge deal about it before PreCheck for this guy. He eventually took stuff out and made it fit. That guy turned out to be my seatmate in F and was fuming mad. Turns out also he’s a DL guy and was trying out UA — was not impressed with breakfast either. LOL.

  3. >The only people who matters when it comes to bringing the bag onboard are the agents actually working the flight.

    That’s not actually true. I’ve been turned away more than once at the TSA security checkpoint entrance by the AA gates at numerous NYC-area airports and forced to return to the check-in counter to check a bag that they insist was oversize. It’s one of the reasons I avoid flying AA wherever possible. They were rude and nasty, and the fact that AA insists on policing bag sizes before you even get through security is ridiculous.

  4. If you argue with an American passenger about any aspect of carry-on baggage you are inviting a Whole World of Trouble. In this instance I think the passenger was entirely within her rights, and the attendant guy was an ill-trained dummy who did not know the rules he was over-zealously trying to enforce. The amount of ill-will this sort of behaviour causes is incalculable, but maybe UA knows their reputation is already so shitty a bit more shit won’t matter.

  5. @Gary Leff

    I had the same experience as some of the commenters above me.

    AA at PHL (hub) insisted on sizing up my rollaboard in the ticketing area prior to TSA.

    Their attitude was elementary school hall monitor “Uh uh you check that bag size right there!”

    I was certain my bag was compliant and I did not want further confrontation so I acquiesced.

    Naturally my bag slid right in like a hard D in a wet P, and the AAgent let me on my way.

  6. I can’t believe this. The United staff allow everyone to bring on everything known to mankind. Non of it fits into the requirement size.
    I wish United would inforce the rooms.

  7. Ridiculous. The woman (mother) is flying with only one squishable personal item that will clearly fit (when squished) under the seat. The blue-vested dude is not only ill-trained and mumbles in some indistinguishable language, but does not know–or doesn’t want to know–how to fit a flexible purse into a sizer. Once again another poor reflection of a Big 3 airline.

  8. This is what happens when numbers rule. A flight takes a 1 minute delay to check a gateclaim and employees are fired or demoted. So to protect their jobs, supervisors roll out draconian policies requiring gate agents to check a minimum of 20 gateclaims regardless how many passengers are booked on the flight. If agents miss the quota, they can be suspended without pay. No one questions what the numbers are saying, and this has allowed them to mutate into a monstrous system where passengers, employees, and their supervisors live in a hell while trying to attain the unattainable. This sickness has spread to aircraft maintenance too, and it’s only a matter of time before it causes a crash and kills the very customers it pretends to serve.

  9. This just happened to me on AA at JFK T8. The Pre-Check contract worker thought my rollerboard was too big and demanded I go back and check my bag. I put it in the sizer and it fit perfectly, but she insisted on sticking to her guns and not letting me through. I was in J class JFK-LAX as EXP so not like I needed to avoid a checking bag fee. I found a real AA employee and asked them for help, showed them in a different sizer my bag fit and they walked with me back to Pre-Check where I placed my bag in the sizer in front of the same contract worker and FINALLY was allowed to pass through……utterly ridiculous! #Goingforgreat indeed.

  10. Yes, certain airlines are apparently so desperate for revenue that they think nothing of antagonizing their customers by forcing them to return to the check-in desk to pay extra bag fees. A minimum-wage staffer making $15/hr can probably produce about $100/hr in additional bag fees netting the airline at least $85/hr in profit. Of course the brain surgeons neglect to calculate the $500/hr in acrimony they’ve caused to their customers, so they will continue to lose customers to more customer-friendly airlines. Vote with your wallets folks!

  11. Can you just ignore these people and keep walking? Surely they won’t physically prevent you from approaching the TSA people and since they obviously don’t work for the TSA I’m not sure TSA would cooperate with them.

  12. Not so fast, Gary …

    “I had already checked my bag and was helping my mom to check in on the computer when a prompt on the screen said a United staff member had to swipe,” Natalia, an account executive in New Jersey, told SWNS.

    The agent wouldn’t swipe because of the bag.

  13. Was this a Basic Economy pax? Because I clearky heard a “that’s her only bag”. If not BE she should have put it in the full size carry on sizer and there would have been no problem.

    And if BE United requires an airport check in so maybe that’s where this happened.

    And it *was* (slightly) too tall (the 10” dimension) and overpacked on the short.dimension (9”). The other pax had a Louis Vitton bag (smaller) and could have taken a bit of repacking from the larger bag.

  14. It was the only piece of luggage the mother had. They should have stuck it into the carry on sizer,. not the personal item.

  15. Sorry folks but the bag may have fit into the box length and width-wise but the height of it was higher than the top of the box and therefore larger the required size for a PERSONAL ITEM. I think some of the commenters here are looking at it thinking it’s the carryon in the overhead but this is the sizer for the personal item that sometimes must fit under the seat. How many commenters here go postal when someone boards with a personal item that won’t fit under the seat and has to take up overhead space that causes you to gate check. I don’t even think the agent was that rude. He just calmly told her the item didn’t fit. This is unjustified outrage. Ridiculous twitter and blog post.

  16. @Peter Y
    My guess is that this customer was likely a basic economy customer and thus would have had to pay a fee to put a bag in the carry on sizer instead of just the personal item sizer.

  17. This reminds me of Colby the Fascist Gate Agent at LAX. I put my bag in the sizer, it fits perfectly and he said, “No, it has to be below the white line”.

  18. @LosAngeles if this is true please explain to me why Lufthansa can board an A321 in 20 minutes while United can’t board an E145 inside 45 minutes? There is a real problem… clearly the boarding process CAN go faster.

  19. I just flew from Tulsa to the Dominican republic.. all carry on with american airlines. one carry on, one personal item. same two pieces of luggage I use EVERY flight. TUL-DFW-MIA-SDQ / return POP-MIA-DFW-TUL. Main cabin each way. the return LEG from MIA to DFW, agent checked my personal item at TSA check… passed! ( hard shell roller). at the gate.. trying to board..checked again.. but wouldn’t allow. after talking to agent, she suggested me checking my carry-on. that was fine. I placed my personal item under the seat. ( of course it fit!!!! ) the reason they said it wasn’t qualified was the wheels were above the line on the baggage checker. I don’t know why they decided on THIS flight.. it wasn’t allowed as a personal item… go figure

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