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American Airlines

No More Checking Bags at the Gate? Please Let This Catch On

No More Checking Bags at the Gate? Please Let This Catch On
Jeff Edwards

American Airlines is doing its part to make the need to check carry-on bags at the gate a thing of the past. No, the carrier isn’t waiving sky-high checked bag fees for more passengers – instead, the carrier is slowly doubling overhead storage space and giving gate agents more information about the carry-on capacity of individual aircraft.

The nearly automatic need for passengers to gate check carry-on bags is becoming less of an issue on some flights operated by the world’s largest airline. A combination of policy changes and adding overhead storage space is starting to make the need for passengers to surrender their bags on the jetway much less likely at American Airlines.

At its core, overstuffed overhead bins can be traced directly to the extra seats squeezed into economy class cabins and steep fees charged for checked bags. The airline isn’t likely to risk revenue by dealing with either of these issues – in fact, bag fees were just recently raised nearly industry-wide and American Airlines management defended squeezing more seats into its aircraft. AA is, however, slowly giving passengers more in-cabin storage space for their carry-on bags.

While the inability of human beings to comfortably use the lavatory on many Boeing 737 MAX aircraft has dominated the headlines, the new planes also come equipped with “space bins” which, according to Boeing, can accommodate 50 percent more bags than standard overhead bins. American is also retrofitting some older 737 planes with the space bins and employing similar space-saving bins on its Airbus A321 aircraft.

In addition to holding more luggage than previous generations of bins, the space bins are easier to load. The unique configuration also makes the space less inviting for space-wasting personal items such as hats, coats and other loose items.

Perhaps more importantly, as Boarding Area’s Gary Leff points out, the carrier is giving gate agents more information about the amount of overhead space available on individual planes. This advance notice that the equipment at the gate has space bins will in theory make it less likely the gate agent will order passengers to begin checking their carry-on items – especially given American Airlines’ near-obsession with on-time departures where every second counts.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (23)


  1. Flight44

    January 21, 2019 at 5:04 am

    A suggestion: Passengers take less of their junk with them. It seems they feel the need to tote an entire wardrobe, plus half the parts they need to repair a car, in their carry on. Just saying.

  2. robsaw

    January 21, 2019 at 11:28 am

    It isn’t any more space unless the size of carry-on is still enforced. Otherwise it just means habituating people to take even more stuff onboard.

  3. Annalisa12


    January 21, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Bigger overheads will mean passengers will carry mpre crap then they will be full again with gate checking

  4. bbriscoe34

    January 21, 2019 at 11:54 am

    sometimes it just items bought while on vacation or at Duty Free. Not just junk brought from home.

  5. sdsearch

    January 21, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    On these planes with taller bins, I’ve seen FAs strongly urge passengers to put their rollaboard into the taller bins on its side, rather than lying flat as in the older bins. By strongly urge, I mean repeating it over and over and over again, and in some cases rotating some passengers’ bags that were put in the “wrong” way which are thus taking up “too much” space.

  6. bimmerfreak0

    January 21, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    This entire article is worthless for regional jets. My head, at 6 foot tall mind you, touches the ceiling on some of those jets.

  7. ontheway

    January 21, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    So in other words: more room for luggage at the expense of the passenger!!!

  8. Marathon Man

    January 23, 2019 at 4:28 am

    Solution: go back to the era of fee free luggage checking. And employ the technology that certainly exists today than it ever had before to help pax track bags. Gps, better computers, etc.

    Do this and people will check more stuff and bring on less! And your airline will become very popular and loved.

    People who do happen to experience any bag loss will be happier to at least know where it is. Gps!

  9. MimiB22

    January 23, 2019 at 4:46 am

    I strongly believe that gate agents must enforce size and weight limits for carry ons. We’ve all seen people with oversized carry on bags, too many “personal items” etc. I recently saw one woman boarding with two large carry on suitcases, a stuffed tote bag and back pack. Her stuff took up the entire bin for her 3 seat row. This should have been prevented before she boarded. I get it, no one likes to pay to check bags, no one wants to wait at baggage carousels, no one wants stolen, lost of damaged suitcases, but rules are rules and should apply to everyone. Just making bins larger will encourage excess carry ons.

  10. jybrick

    January 23, 2019 at 4:53 am

    Well at least my bags will have room to stretch out. Wait a minute, maybe I could pile some bags in my cramped seat and make a nice lie-flat space for myself.

  11. alexmyboy

    January 23, 2019 at 4:59 am

    sounds like a good idea, you people are really bitchy

  12. Baracuda618

    January 23, 2019 at 5:01 am

    I only travel with a carry on (normal size, nothing stupid large) and a pet peeve of mine is people who carry their whole house with them. I have always wondered why bins were designed to lay the carry on flat rather than on it’s side. A couple of extra inches above my head while I’m sitting down isn’t going to matter to me at all. Furthermore, I’ll be really happy when planes with long international routes have normal bins rather than those very inconvenient designs that you can only put duffels into rather than normal luggage. Those bins are completely ridiculous.

  13. apeortdz

    January 23, 2019 at 5:31 am

    I regard the article as positive. Thank you.

  14. golfmad

    January 23, 2019 at 6:24 am

    Am I missing something here? 50% more space is not a doubling of capacity. That would be 100% more space.

  15. montone59

    January 23, 2019 at 6:24 am

    If regulation size roll ons can really fit on their sides, this could creat a good deal more useable space. Seems like it’s definitely worth a try to me.

  16. montone59

    January 23, 2019 at 6:28 am

    If regulation size roll ons can really fit on their sides, this could create a good deal more useable space. Seems like it’s definitely worth a try to me.

  17. southbeachbum

    January 23, 2019 at 6:30 am

    I was on a flight with the new storage bins last week. (This was a flight from Miami to Tampa, so I was surprised it wasn’t a regional jet.) I loved it. It was easy to put the bag on its side. But, I do hate how close the seats are to each other. Not enough room for both my backpack and my feet. I could not imagine sitting like that for a cross country flight.

  18. gpmolloy

    January 23, 2019 at 7:48 am

    Quote: “the carrier is slowly doubling overhead storage space”
    Later: “the new planes also come equipped with “space bins” which, according to Boeing, can accommodate 50 percent more bags than standard overhead bins.”

    50% increase is not “doubling” – that would be 100% increase. Math is hard.

  19. darthbimmer

    January 23, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Stuffed overhead compartments are a result of lax carryon size enforcement as anything else. When I travel foreign airlines on non-US routes the overhead bins are much less full. It’s not that the seats are less dense; often they’re actually more dense. And it’s not that baggage fees are any less making it more attractive for people to check bags; except for full-fare type tickets you’re generally paying extra starting with the first checked bag. The difference is non-US airlines have stricter rules about size and weight for carry-on bags and they’re more likely to enforce them.

  20. BC Shelby

    January 23, 2019 at 11:26 am

    @ Marathon Man. Hear, Hear. That used to be the case with the exception of excess pieces of luggage and overweight luggage. I remember flying before planes had overhead bins (which were first introduced on the 747 in 1969). Back then and before, all other planes of the day still had the old open racks above (Boeing planes had that “pod” on the underside which contained the emergency oxygen masks).

    The increased luggage fees pretty much make any savings for enduring the discomfort of sitting in steerage class moot. If you travel with 2 bags as I do (to balance and lessen weight i need to carry I have severe arthritis) that is another 140$ on most airlines added to the ticket price. Suddenly that 400$ round trip ticket costs 540$. At the very least they need to waive luggage fees for premium seating on domestic flights as combined with the higher fare it often comes fairly close to restricted advance purchase first class fares (which waive the luggage fee give you food and refreshments for free, has priority boarding, and offers a lot more leg and hip room).

  21. jdclover

    January 23, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    Umm, that article for “space bins” was written back in 2015. Did these bins take 3 years to be released or were they out 3 years ago and it’s just taken airlines 3 years to decide to use these bins? If the latter, why did they wait 3 years?

  22. squiddz

    January 27, 2019 at 8:18 am

    IMHO, the best way is to allow free CHECKED bags, and charge for CARRYON bags. That way, at least I think, more people would check bags, resulting in less carryons, and quicker boarding! Only bring one bag on board, check the rest or pay for the 2nd carryon.

  23. miami888

    January 29, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    For well over a year, AA has been asking people to check their bags at the gate for FREE….. seems like a normal thing to do if you are Group 6, 7, 8 or 9.
    I will say that if you are Group 1 or 2, and you need overhead space, its best not to be late (like back in the great 80s/90s when not everyone had a roller bag).
    AA makes it very nice to fly.
    Reminds me of all the people who bulk up their shopping carts at Publix on the lower level and never pay for it (since they cant see it from the Checker).
    People love their short cuts.

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