The One Trick To Prevent Your Bag From Being Checked

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Late last fall I was on an American Airlines flight from Barcelona to JFK on a 777-200. I am the type that hates to check my bag, and I will do just about anything – including stuff all my toiletries into 2 one quart sized bags to be 3-1-1 compliant – to avoid checking my bag.

Sometimes my bag is a little bit overstuffed, and it’s not uncommon for gate agents especially in Europe to ask me to place my roller bag into the sizing bin. On that day leaving BCN, my roller bag flunked the size test and was given the dreaded bag tag. The gate agent said for me to take my bag down the escalator and leave it by the jetway door.IMG_0344Knowing that the escalator was long (and NOT monitored) I ripped the bag tag off of my roller bag and stuffed it in my pocket.  As I boarded the plane, I said hello to the cabin crew and happily rolled my bag onboard.

Bottom Line:

When I travel I attempt to be polite and follow the rules, however I really didn’t want to give up my bag so ripping the bag tag off seemed to be the thing to do in order to keep my bag.  Have you ever ripped a bag tag off a bag that a gate agent wanted you to check? How did it work out?

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  1. There are travel jackets to let you stuff things into 20 pockets. Funny Delta pulled it’s ads because it was advertising as a benefit in saving bag fees.

  2. So I am getting the idea that this isn’t a popular idea, and I get it. Let me add a few more thoughts:

    1. “My bag fit last time” – on the same plane on the way from JFK to BCN. Nothing was said about the size, shape, or weight of my bag departing the USA. I had exactly the same bag, and contents contents departing from Europe. It’s frustrating when you use the same variables, but have two different outcomes.

    2. Consistency – I boarded BCN-JFK next to last, and I realized there might not be space in the overhead bin for my bag. The last passenger was a pilot for another carrier in uniform. His carry on included a 26″ international sized roller bag, yet he wasn’t forced to place it in a sizing bin.

    3. Safety – I have been traveling over 200 days a year for the past 15 years largely without checking bags. I can safely lift my roller bag into an overhead bin without injuring myself or others. I also do not seek assistance from the cabin crew – I pack it, I stack it into the overhead bin.

    4. Security – my bag, and its contents were screened via x-ray, and sometimes via a secondary screening swabs or having my bags opened and searched.

    5. I don’t smoke, and I don’t steal stop signs.

  3. Yes, I’ve done this before, mainly on American Airlines. It is not uncommon to board after being told there is no more overhead space and find a third of the overhead space still available.

    Simple fact is, gate agents lie and lie and lie. I don’t know how they live with themselves.

  4. If the bag contains lithium batteries, such as a laptop or spare cellphone batteries, they are not allowed to check those. Before telling you to gate check it, they should ask if anything that can’t be checked is in it (I believe matches are also allowed as carry-on but not checked baggage.)

    This is more of a problem on the regional jets, where even a standard laptop backpack can’t fit in the overhead compartment nor under the seats, and thus gets gate-checked.

  5. I would have done the same thing your shoes. I believe the silent majority agrees with you and the trolls are gonna troll no matter what you write.

  6. Yea, this is common. They always say there’s not enough bin space halfway through boarding and of course there is. Just let them tag it and bring it on the plane. I kept the tag on my bag as I boarded a DL plane, I don’t think anyone cares.

    If they make me check it, I will stand at the door and make sure everyone else behind me leaves their bag too. No need to rush to my seat for overhead luggage space at that point. 🙂

  7. Watch out with this antisocial behavior.. Some time ago a Dutch passenger flying with Transavia (KLM) did the same. Someone from the ground crew did see this and he was denied boarding for not following crew directions. Subsequently he was banned from flying Transavia altogether because he got into an argument about it. A judge ruled Transavia was correct. By the way, the guy was a lawyer.

  8. I’ve noticed that European carriers’ allowed carry-on sizes are smaller than what the U.S. carriers allow. This creates trouble for those of us with a connecting flight or who decide to fly a codeshare.

  9. Count me not impressed. 1/2017 I was on an ATL/LGA flight. Anyone at gate who agreed to check their bag at the gate (in this case leave it on the boarding ramp) as allowed to pre-board.

    Someone took the offer but boarded with their bag. Somehow Delta knew they were missing a checked in bag and we sat until they found the bag on board.

    Travel karma is real!

  10. I do it all the time in European airports. I think people that follow the rules blindly are suckers who end up getting screwed eventually, probably by having their bag lost. I say do what you have to to protect your belongings.

  11. Thanks for the tip. Also have been doing the two 3-1-1 trick for 2 yrs now and have NEVER been stopped.
    As far as folllowing rules go, they are definitely made for everyone. Except when you see them not being followed time and again.

  12. Not very mature removing my prior comment for being critical of your practice. It makes me wonder how many other critical comments were deleted.

  13. Risky, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I avoid checking my bag whenever possible… even when traveling with two young children. I just hate the fees that some airlines charge and the wasted time waiting at baggage claim.

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