Hideyuki Kamon / Flickr

Rediscovering the Joys of Curbside Check-In

To be fair, I totally forgot that curbside check-in even existed until I rolled up to the airport this past Friday. The dilemma was sort of like this: I needed to check in three bags, both stuffed to the absolute weight limit, and there was no man in sight to help me carry my own body weight in suitcases. Good lord, what was I going to do?

At this point, my mother suggests that we try the curbside check-in instead of dragging it all to the check-counter.  “No, it’s okay,” I secretly rebel thanks to a reflexive 26 years of parental conditioning.

“No, it’s fine, trust me,” she says. Against all my better instincts, I comply – and within a minute or two, my bags are tagged and I’m sent off with my boarding pass. I haven’t even set foot inside the building yet. It’s amazing. I write this article.

So with all this nickel and diming going on, it will probably come as a shock that some airlines–though they’ve charged for it in the past–have incredibly kept their curbside check-in charges free. Granted, you’ll still have to tip the porter, but for a few dollars, it’s worth it to skip the line for the bag drop and go straight to security.

One of the upsides is that these guys can be more forgiving with excess baggage weight, at the cost of a tip. (My skycap didn’t weigh my bag, but these guys can probably guess how much it weighs.) You pretty much do anything that you’d do at a normal check-in counter–like select your seat–but you just end up doing it at the curb instead.

You’ll still have to pay the fee for actually checking in a bag; there’s no denying that and no easy way out of this one. Among the list of American airlines that offer free curbside? United, American, Delta, Southwest, and Frontier. Looks like they’re doing something right!

Meanwhile, there are still a few airlines that charge a fee for using this service. Both US Airways and JetBlue charge $2 per bag for curbside check-in, before tip. It’ll be interesting to see what strategy American Airlines decides to keep after they cannibalize US Airways, but we all know what policy I’m in favor of.

That said, there’s seems to be no official policy on how much you should tip the porters. The general consensus is that you should tip at least a dollar per bag (hey, this is their bread and butter after all), but if you’ve got heavy items or an exceptional case, definitely don’t be stingy. Travel industry people have hard jobs, true story.

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