Why are there a million categories that decide when you board a plane? The Intelligencer explains: Airlines figured out that random boarding is faster than back-to-front boarding, because it spreads people throughout the plane as they stow their luggage and get seated, instead of the back section getting mobbed, then the front getting mobbed.
Then airlines realised that some passengers will pay more to board early, and thus guarantee they can find overhead space for their luggage—and not be forced to gate-check it.
After the Intelligencer explores the economics of boarding order, they give a tip for avoiding the gate-check, even if you’re in the last groups to board: use soft-sided luggage. You’re more likely to find just enough space to squeeze it between everyone else’s suitcases, or under the seat in front of you. And you’re more likely to convince the staff at the air plane door to let you on with that bag.
Switching to soft luggage will take some adjustment—and if it does get checked, a soft bag is a lot more vulnerable than hard-case luggage—but it’s also lighter and easier to carry. I’ve breezed through a lot of airports with a big backpack, walking faster than everyone dragging a roller case, and always finding a spot for it in the overhead.
If you’re worried about gate-checking luggage, you can also follow the tips in the related posts below to try to board as early as possible. Look up which sections your airline boards first, and try to book in those sections.
Then check in 24 hours before your flight to see if someone’s cancelled and vacated a better seat. As a last resort, when the staff says they’ll need to check your bag, ask very politely to try stowing it.
Here’s Why Aeroplane Boarding Got So Ridiculous | Intelligencer