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United Airlines is getting rid of those gate-side bag sizers

Jan. 17, 2020
3 min read
United Airlines is getting rid of those gate-side bag sizers
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Editor's Note

This post has been updated to reflect that the story was first reported by Brian Sumers.

United Airlines is removing bag sizers from its gates, a move that the company said will make it a more customer-friendly airline.

United revealed the change in a memo to employees, saying "it's the right thing to do because it will eliminate stress for both customers and employees, as well as allow you to have more caring and personal interactions."

The memo, reviewed by TPG on Friday, explicitly said that bags that technically exceed the listed maximum dimensions for carry-ons should still be allowed to fly in the cabin if they fit into the overhead bins.

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Image from the internal United Airlines memo about bag sizers. (Image courtesy of United Airlines.)

The airline has already begun removing the bag sizers from gate areas, and expects them to be totally gone by Jan. 23. The devices will remain in pre-security areas of the airport and United said in the memo it will continue to identify and check oversized bags before passengers get to the gate.

“That’s a smart move,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research. “I don’t see agents using the sizers on a regular basis when traveling on American, Delta or United, so why take up space in the gate area with something that doesn’t really seem to be used for enforcement?”

He added, though, that it could lead to some challenging situations if a passenger thinks their bag will fit in the overhead bin, and a gate agent believes differently.

Related: The 10 longest (and 10 shortest) United Airlines flights

Checked-bag strategy: How to avoid checked baggage fees on major domestic airlines

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“I just hope that the agents are going to be equipped with some kind of tool where if the bag is too large, they have something they can use to show the customer why their bag is too large and why it may have to be checked as a result," Harteveldt said.

The change was first reported by Brian Sumers of Skift.

Carry-on baggage has become increasingly important to travelers as airlines continue to raise fees for checked luggage, meaning overhead bin space is now at a premium on most flights. United's new policy means gate agents may have a little more leeway in allowing some carry-on bags onto the plane.

But Basic Economy passengers are still out of luck, even with the change.

"Do keep in mind that Basic Economy customers are still only allowed one personal item that fits underneath their seat," the memo said in a standalone paragraph.

Related: United plans to roll out 3D photos of aircraft interiors on seat map page

Featured image by United Airlines boarding gate. (Photo by Zach Honig)

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