I had to cut short my trip to the Bay Area this weekend and fly home to attend the funerals of two family friends who died this week. For the first time in years, I purchased a walk-up ticket on United from SFO-LAX a couple hours before my flight this morning. Thankfully, the Q-fare was only $142 and my upgrade cleared immediately.
The plan was to proceed directly to the funeral from LAX so I was carrying my garment bag, a small duffel bag, and my laptop bag. In the past, I have always understood garment bags to be exempt from the one carry-on, one personal item requirement. I often travel with one and have never been stopped before.
Because I was flying hub-hub, I pulled up my boarding pass on my iPhone and proceeded immediately to the security checkpoint at SFO. An Air Serv employee respectfully, but forcefully told me that I would need to consolidate my carry-ons. I explained to her that the coats do not count against the carry-on requirement but she forcefully, more rudely this time, said that I could not proceed to the CAS (not TSA at SFO!) boarding pass check. I told her that I didn’t care what she said and attempted to walk past her. She physically tried to block me (a 5’5” woman) but I pivoted around her and walked up to the CAS BP checker who was looking on with amusement. Well, this woman did not like what I did and yelled to the CAS that he was not to let me through. Do these people have any authority?
I looked at CAS agent, looked back at the Air Serv woman, shook my head in disgust, and exited the line, though not before calling the woman a few things that I shouldn’t have.
I ran into a United supervisor and asked him about the carry-on policy. He confirmed what the Air Serv employee had said. I pulled out my iPhone, pulled up UA’s carry-on policy, and showed the supervisor that outer garments were exempted. He claimed that because my suit was on a hanger, it did not qualify. He added that it was not UA policy, but FAA policy. Uh-huh… I thanked him and proceeded to the AA checkpoint at the other side of the terminal where I had no trouble getting through with my three items.
Here’s the official UA carry-on policy:
Carry-on baggage policies for all United travel
For worldwide travel on any United flight, you may carry on one bag and one personal item such as a purse, briefcase or laptop computer. Your carry-on bag…
- must fit under your seat or in the overhead bin;
- must not be more than 9 x 14 x 22 inches (23 x 35 x 56 cm) or 45 linear inches* (114 linear cm); and
- may be required to travel as checked baggage if the bag cannot be safely stowed on your flight.
The following personal items are not counted toward your one bag and one personal item limit:
- Assistive devices (canes, crutches, etc.)
- Child safety seats for ticketed children
- Infant restraint devices (infant seat with or without stroller, front pouch or back carrier)
- Outer garments (coats, hats, etc.)
- Reading material (a reasonable amount)
- Umbrellas (one per passenger)
- Food and beverages to be consumed onboard
Please note that all items must be stowed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. They may not be stowed in the seat back pocket.
I felt a twang of remorse though, almost to the point of feeling the need to go back and apologize to the Air Serv employee.
The flight was lightly filled and I shared the back-half of the 24-seat 757 First Class cabin with only four others. I’m troubled by the incident because I genuinely believed that garment bags were exempt from the requirement. This one fit nicely on the coat rack behind row six and did not take any under-seat, overhead, or even closet space (of which copious amounts remained after everyone had boarded).
What has been your experience in traveling with garment bags or other items not considered a third carry-on item? There was no excuse for what I called the Air Serv woman, but I’d like to know if I really need to eat humble pie. I may even write to UA and ask for a clarification on this carry-on policy.