3 Strategies to Avoid Gate-Checked Bags
We have all encountered the commercial airline “boarding shuffle.” First Class is called, and everyone rises from their seats, phone in hand. Group 1 is called, and everyone filters closer to the boarding area so that personal space is intruded and inevitably someone’s feet are run over by a rolling suitcase wielded by an absent-minded traveler.
“We’re all getting on at some point,” is what my mom used to say when I was a kid. “Just have a seat and we’ll get on last.” Well, things have changed since the 90s with the advent of checked bag fees and easy to manage carry-on bags. Now, overhead space is at a premium and everyone wants to get a spot for THEIR bag.
It’s easy to see the advantages of carrying on rather than checking: it’s free; you don’t have to wait at the baggage claim; and because it’s with you, there’s no chance of it getting lost. However, on most domestic flights, if you are assigned to Group 4 or beyond, there is a good chance that your carry-on bag is going to be gate checked to your final destination if you can’t fit it under your seat. Also remember that bulkhead seats have no space to stow anything in front of you, so even your purse or backpack will need to go in the overhead bins.
Here are some ideas that can help you avoid gate checking your bags:
Use Your Frequent Flyer Number
When you purchase your tickets, enter your frequent flyer number. If you have a co-branded airline credit card associated with your frequent flyer number or if any of your travel companions have airline status, all of the passengers in your itinerary may receive an earlier boarding group. Even if you don’t have status, but have flown recently with the airline in the past, it may increase your chances of receiving an earlier boarding group.
Purchase priority access
Many airlines offer priority access for an additional fee per passenger. It’s usually around $30. In addition to priority boarding, you also get access to the Priority TSA check line, if available. If your family has just one or two carry-on bags for the overhead bin, it may make sense to just to have one parent board with Priority Access, and the rest of the family can board with the assigned group.
In my recent experience, preboard announcements aren’t always consistently made, and the passengers eligible for preboarding can vary. The preboard category can contain any mixture of uniformed military, passengers traveling with small children or elderly, and passengers requiring extra assistance. Use your best judgement when utilizing preboard, of course.
If your bag does need to be gate checked, of course it’s not the end of the world, but I have seen grown men cry about it. Get your bag ready to be gate checked:
- Confirm that your name and address is on a luggage tag, or ask for one at the service desk if you don’t have one.
- Remove any valuables (jewelry, electronics, car keys) before you leave it on the jet way.
- Make sure you keep any documents the gate agent gives you regarding your bag in case it gets lost in transit.
You’ll collect your bag at baggage claim at your final destination, and life will go on.
You may also enjoy:
- Travel Packing Tips
- Getting Through Airport Security with Kids
- Packing a Carry On Bag: My Four Essential Travel Items
- Tips to Avoid and Deal With Lost Luggage at the Airport
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Rachel is from Peoria, Illinois. She works full-time as a software implementation consultant in the healthcare field. Her family includes her husband Justin, also an IT professional,…