If you’ve boarded a flight in the past few years, you’ve certainly heard what seems to be the new norm of boarding announcements: “We’re looking for volunteers to gate-check their bags.” When airlines ask passengers to check bags at the gate due to limited overhead bin space, many passengers react with frustration and fear — and the last thing we need at the airport is additional frustration.
Luckily, gate-checking isn’t something to be dreaded. In fact, it’s one of our favourite travel hacks. Here’s how to gate-check your luggage and why you should try it on your next flight.
Turn your carry-on into checked luggage
Even when your luggage is small enough to count as carry-on for your flight, it’s still a pain to lug around the terminal, not to mention in and out of the overhead bins. Here’s your underrated hack: Airlines will check allowed carry-on bags at the gate for free, meaning you get to be freed of your luggage without paying the dreaded checking fees ahead of time. Gate-checking is the perfect compromise for travellers who want the freedom — without the killer costs — of checked bags.
However, The Points Guy explains that you shouldn’t take this hack too far — free gate-checking won’t work for passengers who try to bring a full-sized carry-on item on board when their fare type does not permit them to do so. But if you do indeed have a carry-on appropriate bag, you’ll be able to request gate-checking up to thirty minutes before boarding (so long as the crew is ready). Even if you can’t gate-check until you’re boarding, at least you’ll be able to find your seat without worrying about overhead bin space.
One final note before you take off: Make sure to check whether you get your bags at the landing gate or at baggage claim. Plus, due to the airline’s order of operations, gate-checking means your bag will usually be among the first out at baggage claim. At the end of the day, gate-checking your bag should not be any riskier than traditional bag checks, but when it comes to flying, it doesn’t hurt to double- and triple-check every step along the way.
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