United Airlines is eliminating baggage sizers at the gate because they no longer represent an accurate indicator of what will fit in the overhead bin.
Brian Sumers shared of the change on Twitter, but did not share the full contents of the memo. I asked a United agent to see the memo and reviewed it in its entirety.
As Sumers shared, it does start by emphasizing that gate agents are being empowered to exercise more discretion:
We’re removing bag sizers from our gate areas
As part of our continued efforts to empower employees and deliver a friendly experience for all, we are removing all gate area bag sizers by January 23. With this change, we will not be removing bag sizers from the lobby and security checkpoints, where we will seek to better identify and check many oversized bags, and we will continue to remind customers about our 1+1 carry-on bag rule in a variety of ways.
In the event an oversized bag makes its way from the lobby to the gate, we know that our customer service representatives can apply our core4 principles and make the best decisions for our customers in the moment. If a bag is oversized, please gate check it to its final destination per the normal process. If it looks like it fits, let it go. Use your best judgment. Do keep in mind that Basic Economy customers are still only allowed one personal item that fits underneath their seat.
But the memo also includes pictures and a caption which states, “This bag is too big for our bag sizer, but fits into the airplane’s overhead bin and is compliant with FAA size rules. Let it go!”
United is no longer enforcing specific dimensional limits on carry-on bags, because 1.) overhead bins can accommodate larger carry-on bags and 2.) United is in the process of updating its carry-on bins to allow for even more storage.
At United’s Media Day last October, Toby Enqvist, United’s Chief Customer Officer, announced the installation of bigger overhead bins on more planes, with the goal of creating space so that every single passenger onboard can place a large carry-on bag in the overhead bin.
United will be updating its employee manual to “remove any reference to specific dimensions of bags” and will also be notifying flight attendants of the policy change.
The memo also still calls upon gate agents to ensure that Basic Economy passengers are limited to only one personal items that fits under the seat in front of them.
Gate Agents Never Checked Anyway
One Mile at a Time is fair in arguing “something as black-and-white as carry-on sizes doesn’t seem like an area where empowering employees adds any value.” The threat of inconsistent application is a concern when there is no sizer present to back-up the subjective judgement that a particular carry-on bag is too big.
But for what’s it worth, I fly over 100,000 miles on United each year and did not see gate agents actually use one of the sizers even once last year. Not even once.
I do wonder why United is bothering to keep these sizers in check-in lobbies and outside security checkpoints when it admits that they do not provide an accurate indication of what will fit in the overhead bin.
United is removing gate sizers because they simply do not provide an accurate picture of what will fit in the overhead bin. Furthermore, they just gather dust and are rarely used. Finally, United’s overhead bins, on average, will be able to accommodate even more hand baggage by the end of 2020. For those reasons, I think it makes sense to remove the carry-on sizers. Now whether to replace them with larger ones is a whole other issue…
Are you afraid of renegade gate agents who will inconsistently deny carry-on bags onboard?