Gate checking? It’s officially great in my eyes. I can’t even remember the last time I didn’t have to fight with someone for the overhead bin.
If you’re trying to save a little bit of cash on checked baggage, take this with a bit of salt, as the tip comes from a former baggage handler slash future air traffic controller over at Reddit. (But hey, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times verifies it.) His two cents?
If you have a small roller bag that's carry-on size that you would rather check than carry-on, you can avoid paying the checked bag fee by taking it through security like a carry-on and then ask to have your bag "gate checked" once you get to your departure gate. They will put a tag on it and check it all the way to your final destination... for free!
In fact, gate-checking maybe an even better alternative according to a former American Airlines employee (and currently anonymous Yahoo! commenter):
If you gate check it, TSA will X-ray your stuff at the checkpoint so you know it can't get lost, and it's the last items loaded onto the plane. Not only that, but the cargo bins have safety nets to keep the bags from sliding all over the bin. Gate checked items are kept outside of the net, so that nobody else's bags can crush your stuff.
The only real danger you have gate checking a bag is that sometimes the ground crew will be rushing to get the plane out on time and they may forget to get your bag from the jet bridge. Sometimes your stuff may be damaged as well, but that's just a risk you take loading your stuff at the bottom of a plane.
Sure, it’s a cheap way if you’re trying to save some money and avoid the $25-50 baggage fee. But in some cases, that may be a quarter or even half of what you spent on the ticket. Depending, right?
Here’s the thing: some gate agents may voluntarily check it for free, and some may not. And all of that is really up to the person manning the gate, so smile, smile and remember all of those lessons your mother taught you. If you end up getting charged, at least keep this in mind: you were going to check it in and willing to pay the baggage fee anyways.
Is it kosher? Well, maybe not. But I don’t check my bags and have never heard of any other person duplicitously taking advantage of this little loophole. But with bag-less American Airlines customers getting to board first these days, maybe a little comfort goes a long way. And trust me, I will get to that overhead bin first.