I’m sure many readers don’t face this issue because they have elite status, allowing them to board first, but if you’ve flown an airline with which you don’t have status (or do have status but are boarding late), you’ve no doubt run into the ridiculous “gate check” culture we’ve seen with US airlines over the past few years. Basically, those in high seating areas are encouraged to gate check their bags because there “won’t be overhead bin space.” Largely, in my experience, it comes down to a combination of laziness and lack of creativity… and gate agents not enforcing the carry-on limits.
Anyway, because I think gate checking has gotten out of hand, here’s a trick to avoid ever having to gate check your bag again. The next time you’re forced to gate check your bag you’ll be asked what your final destination is, because that’s where you’re supposed to pick up your bag. Come up with a destination you’ve only dreamed of… maybe Bora Bora, Kilimanjaro, or Vladivostok. You can book a singe reservation containing several airlines, and the agent has no way of verifying it on the spot (on the plane), so magically some overhead bin space will appear. I nearly guarantee it. There’s no way they’re going to gate check a bag on another airline, let alone one that isn’t a partner.
And for the record, I’ve only had to use this technique once. I was late boarding a flight, though seated in first class. At the door, the gate agent absolutely insisted I gate check my bag. I simply told her what my destination was (in my dreams… it was a redeye, making it all the more justifiable), and moments later I was let on with my bag. Not surprisingly, there was plenty of overhead bin space.