United Airlines To Remove Bag Sizers From Gates

In an internal memo sent to all United Airlines employees, the airline has declared it will be removing all bag sizers from boarding gates by 23 January. The memo highlights the airline’s renewed focus on checking bag size at check-in desks and putting more over-size bags in the hold before passengers reach the gate.

United AIrlines baggage policy
United Airlines will no longer have bag sizers at gates. Photo: United Airlines

A tweet containing part of a United Airlines internal memo shows that the airline plans to stop checking bag size at boarding gates. The airline asks employees to “use your best judgment” when it comes to regulating bag size.

Potential problems

The memo also gives the rather relaxed instruction; “if it looks like it fits, let it go”. This means that individual employees will be responsible for enforcing the existing baggage regulations. The problem with this is that different individuals on different days may allow or decline bags based on their mood, preference or any number of personal reasons.

Previously, airline employees could use the baggage sizer as a definitive answer. An angry passenger can argue against the decision of an employee. But, if their bag doesn’t fit in the sizer, it doesn’t fit, simple as that. There’s no arguing with a bag sizer.

Perhaps we will be seeing a rise in confrontations as passengers try to negotiate their bag onto the plane. What will United do if the same bag is accepted one day and refused another?

What does this mean?

Unfortunately for many travelers, this does not mean you can get away with bringing a larger bag as your carry-on item. The new rules come with tighter restrictions on checking bags at check-in desks and at security.

What the airline actually seems to be saying is that staff at the boarding gates won’t have to be responsible for checking bag size anymore. The aim of the change is that over-size bags will be put into the hold before a passenger reaches the gate.

So, the actual rules about what you take on the flight haven’t changed. You can’t suddenly take more bags, heavier bags or larger bags. The only change is that more stringent checks will be in place before you reach the gate. However, if you do slip past lobby staff and security with an oversize bag, the staff at the boarding gate will still be allowed to check the bag into the hold.

United Airlines Baggage change lobby
United Airlines will be stricter about checking carry-on bags at check-in. Photo: United Airlines

FAA restrictions

United Airlines will have to ensure that they do actually enforce their baggage restrictions at check-in and security. American Airlines has previously been warned by the FAA that they were not enforcing their carry-on policy. There is the potential for United to face a similar warning if they don’t successfully monitor carry-on bags before they reach the gate.

United Policy

United Airlines has a rather bizarre reputation of both vehemently enforcing its baggage policy at gates but then strangely, its baggage sizer is actually larger than their regulations. Their current policy allows for 22 x 9 x 14 but their bag sizers are 23 x 10 x 15.

Perhaps this change in regulations will be a long-term solution to prevent over-size bags being taken as carry-on luggage. The airline told Simple Flying,

“Removing bag sizers from all our gates is good news for our customers and our employees. We’re always looking for ways to simplify the boarding process, and this move delivers a more seamless travel experience for everyone.”

What do you think of the change? Let us know in the comments below.