May 29, 2015 Comments (2) Adventure, How To, Travel Hacks, Travel on a Budget, Travel Tips

Travel Hack Friday: Avoid Baggage Fees

baggage fees
Above image courtesy of Canadian Pacific

Baggage fees have all but gone overboard.   Believe it or not, there once was a time that carrying one bag, or even two bags was a given and was included as part of your already exorbitant ticket price. Traveling has certainly changed over the years becoming less and less customer oriented. It really is a matter of time until the cost of airfare is measured by total weight and not just seat fare. Personally I would rather they just raise their prices by $25 and not tell me.

But I digress. Hopefully this week’s travel hack can help budget travelers, like us, save some money!

So, short of getting on the plane wearing 4 layers of clothing or trying to shove everything into a fanny pack, there’s a way to beat the baggage fee creep: Gate check your bag and save yourself the baggage fees.

We’ve all seen it; the bags sitting alongside the gangway waiting to be ushered on the plane. Not only do they get loaded last (which means they get unloaded first), but they’re generally getting free passage to your final destination.   You could always take Southwest, but unfortunately Southwest doesn’t fly to every destination and won’t always be an option.

baggage fees

Image courtesy of Per Gosche

How can I avoid baggage fees?

I’m glad you asked! The idea is to bring your bag through security as a carryon, and once at the departure gate, ask to have it gate checked. That’s it!

I came across this hack a few years ago, and fearing that the policy might have changed, I decided to try it again on a recent flight to San Francisco. And, I’m happy to report that it still works (yes, I was the ass dragging the giant pack through the lounge. I promise it was for a good cause). More often than not, the agents will be more than happy to accommodate -especially on crowded flights- in order to save space within the cabin. Sometimes you’ll even see the agents scouring the waiting area for oversized carryon just to gate check them anyways. Obviously you won’t be able to tote your 50lb plastic enforced suitcase with you, but you can certainly test the limits of what defines a carryon!

Word of warning though; the agents do have the authority to charge a fee, but I have yet to come across this myself.   Just remember, being pleasant with a smile goes a long way. As they have the authority to charge you the fee, they also have the discretion not to. Usually the crew will be more than happy to gate check your bag if asked nicely and to also keep the flow going. The last thing they want is to hold up the boarding process, ultimately delaying the plane.

Just be prepared for the worse case scenario of having to pay the baggage fee. If it works, you’re golden, and if it doesn’t, you were going to pay for the baggage fee anyways.


Did this work for you? Please share your experience if you’ve tried this hack.

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I'm an aspiring scuba diver, novice spelunker and avid adventurer.I have a penchant for always getting lost with an established track record for choosing the worst places to eat. With a healthy aversion to staying in one place for too long, I am the ceaseless wanderer and explorer. I recently traded in the suit for a backpack, and am now pursuing to live a life of sustained travel. I travel to learn, I travel to live and I travel in search of adventure.
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2 Responses to Travel Hack Friday: Avoid Baggage Fees

  1. That is an interesting suggestion. I suppose you run the risk of the check in desk/bag drop area noting your excess baggage shall we say?

    I’ve recently had a lot of problems (see commentluv article below) where even with a correct size, one carry on I can’t take it onto the flight. Why? Because other people are trying to by pass checked bag fees by bring more than their allowance onto the flight. They often do get them on the flight because gate staff don’t enforce baggage policy.

    It ends up that my one, single bag with important work papers and essentials are out of my control and possession. Thankfully I have locks in place to reduce the chance of things being stolen; as happened to a colleague of mine when he gate checked his bag (gave it up at boarding) on instruction of the flight crew.

    I agree that baggage fees have changed the dynamics of travel and carry-ons. The US (although not exclusive to the US) is probably the worst country I fly through as people routinely try to get 2-3 relatively large bags with them into the cabin. I always just have one and feel pretty narked off that a one bag policy is not enforced.

    Hope that once you’ve read my KLM Hand Baggage Policy article you’ll understand my plight.

    Overall, I think the airlines need to have a rethink their process because they can solve this problem for all of us.
    The Guy Who Flies recently posted…KLM Hand Baggage Policy Is Driving Me NutsMy Profile

    • Carey says:

      Definitely must be within reason. I’ve seen some travelers really take the loose definition of “carry on” to the extreme, causing no end of headaches for fellow travelers. Even worse is when their baggage encroaches into your own “space”. Personally, my own carry on is generally no larger than a small daypack, and I never have need to use the overhead bins as it fits quite comfortably in the leg space. With the cabin becoming such a hotbed of aggression, hopefully travelers begin to understand how liberating it is to travel light and decide to just gate check the bigger items.

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