Why All Airlines Should Offer Free Checked Baggage

How many times have you reached the departure gate for a look of horror to appear on your face? Along with your cabin-sized suitcase, everybody else also has a cabin-sized suitcase. What if there was a different way?

Check Carry On Free
Passengers should be able to check carry on items for free. Photo via Pixabay

Traveling with cabin baggage is almost a given in this day and age, however, it is something I personally look to avoid. Why? Because by doing so, traveling becomes much easier. Stick around with me as I explain why airlines should check carry on bags for free.

Limited capacity

The primary issue with carrying on suitcases is their size. According to easyJet, their aircraft has space for 70 suitcases in the cabin. Now, when an A320 carries 180 passengers, this means that only 40% of the passengers will be able to travel with their bags. With the exception of Ryanair, carriers in these situations tend to check baggage for free. However, this is often done at the gate after lugging the bag through the airport.

But why bother? When it is so much easier to check a bag in at the check-in desk, it seems counter-intuitive that most airlines would like to charge a premium for this.

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Check Cabin Luggage Free
easyJet allows passengers to pay for its Hands-Free service. Photo via Pixabay

The benefits

There are benefits for both passengers and the airline to allowing passengers to check-in their cabin bags. Firstly, let’s look at the benefit for the passenger. When traveling I make sure that there is nothing I need in my suitcase. The reason for this is due to the fact that I don’t want to have to rummage around in my suitcase in the overhead locker at 36,000ft.

By checking my hand luggage in for free, I am able to forget about that suitcase until I arrive at my destination. There is no lugging it around the airport, and no faffing about at security. In fact, using easyJet’s Hands-Free program, you will even receive priority boarding as you don’t need to fight for locker space.

However, there would also be benefits for the airlines. Assuming almost everybody had a carry on suitcase, a large proportion of these would need to be gate checked. This involves the boarding staff having to write up tags, and wasted time as the whole procedure is completed. By contrast, if these bags were checked in, there would be less of a fight for space on board the aircraft.

Such a program could save time when boarding aircraft. Photo via Pixabay

Change of attitude

However, people are somewhat attached to traveling with their bag, driven by a need to leave the airport quickly. As a result, passengers could be reluctant to check their bag in, even if the service was free. The answer to this is a nudge from the airline.

While Eurowings provides text alerts about free bag drops, other airlines could potentially offer incentives to encourage passengers to part with their bag for a few hours. Ultimately, however,  airlines are able to make substantial ancillary revenue from checked baggage, so it is unlikely anything drastic will change soon.

Would you check your cabin bag in for free? Let us know in the comments!

12 comments
  1. I personally prefer gate checking my bag. I only carry a small-medium sized duffel bag so going through security and the airport isnt too hard, plus be gate checking there is less of a chance for it to get lost or put on a different flight. Plus I wouldn’t be able to use my lock if I checked it at the ticket counter as I use a padlock with a key that doesn’t have a TSA accessible key.

  2. No chance this will happen… because the travelling public are dodgy. They will check in one hand luggage and then sneak in something else… so essentially they are robbing the airlines.

  3. I’ve often thought, How about a free checked bag and charge a fee of anything larger than the “personal item” for a carry-on? There is the incentive and although I think the net result would be less baggage revenue, think how much faster boarding would be!

  4. No way I would routinely check a carry-on bag – it routinely takes 45 minutes for bags to be returned at my home airport.

  5. Never.
    I hold personal (pc), sensible (tefillin), valuable (camera) stuff in the carry on, will never hand it over

  6. “However, people are so attached to travelling with their bag, driven by a need to leave the airport quickly.”
    That ‘s the main reason why passengers are reticent to check in their bags even when it is free because it takes at least 25 mns to have luggage delivered.
    Also if you carry a computer or anything valuable or fragile you want to keep them with you.
    I usually put my hand luggage under the seat infront of me end it is perfect.

  7. What you are seeing is the mantra with which every MBA is brain washed: Maximise shareholder value. The attitude this develops is to do so at any cost, particularly customer service. Where are the likes of David Garrett (at Delta) or Jan Carlzon (at SAS) today? And so you will find a growing list of extras even on so-called full-service carriers like BA.

    A while back, there were rumours that Ryan Air was going to add a coin slot on its toilet doors. This may have been a typical Michael O’Leary windup but don’t be surprised if this becomes a reality in the near future.

    A more general question is whether customer service has improved or deteriorated over the last two decades. I mean for those that Flight calls cattle class or self-loading cargo.

  8. I have been a flight attendant for over 25 years, and even when checked bags were free, people brought too much cabin bags with them, whether in size or number of pieces. Reverting to a free system will not solve the chaos at the gate as people will still be reluctant to check their bags, plus the billions the industry will lose as a result will need to be recouped somehow, probably in the form of higher fares.
    In (my) ideal (FA) world, cabins would have no overhead lockers and all bags would have to fit under the seats; it would make for a lighter aircraft (bins do weigh quite a bit) and boarding would be a lot quicker. And it would save passengers having literal meltdowns when there is no overhead space over their seats.
    I remember when I first saw a trolley bag at the beginning of my career and I thought “how cool is that”; now I absolutely loathe them (and I never travel with one when I non-rev).

  9. It’s a great idea. I’d always prefer to go “hands-free” around the airport. So much less hassle during security and boarding.

    However, I’ve had checked bags lost or mis-routed more than once, so to me carry-on is my insurance policy against wearing the same underwear for days whilst the airline finds my bags! (Of course, I’d buy some!)

    If I “check” the bag airside, at least I know it’s on the aircraft.

    Obviously, unbundling baggage in an additional revenue stream for the airlines they’d be reluctant to give up (or to increase the ticket price to cover the airport’s baggage handling fees). However, I’d want a cash payment, on-arrival, guarantee (to cover out-of-pockets) if checking my bag at the desk became the de-facto standard.

  10. I like the concept of under seat only on short domestic flights sans children.
    I personally wish bag-drop was made faster through standard bag sizes and RFID/eINK mandatory for all bag drop, thus allowing faster robot-checkin (no annoying sticky luggage tags), and even maybe robot-powered aircraft loading.

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