Last week I had some fun flying. I started with an AA regional flight direct from Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR) to Dallas, Texas (DFW) on Avios in business class one way for just 15k points (vs. 25k on Delta). Then I continued my trip on Delta the next day on a Delta PWM ticket and back on an American award – but more on that later. Since GRR is just about a 2 hour drive from home I arrived early to the airport, and with no lounge to enjoy at this airport, I had some time to kill.
I find it really interesting to consider all aspects of the “Big 3” airlines and carry-on testers, to me, is a microcosm of the approach of how they interact with their customers. Keep in mind United tends to take everything Delta does and make it much worse, like the frequent flyer and elite program to the latest punishing BASIC fares that reward loyal elite travelers with ZERO elite points. Also recall that the new United BASIC fares that do not allow a carry-on bag free (just a personal item). Now take a good look at the gate bag size checker from UA above and below.
Does that look inviting to you and offer any flexibly for gate agent discretion? And while not a UA size checker, I am sure we remember the recent video of a man jumping on his bag to make it fit (and then the fun trying to get it out). Does not the UA tester invite the same madness?
And United being United, they have a checker for your personal item as well as one for the carry-on “conveniently” built into one large, and imposing, unit. Good luck getting your laptop bag into the smaller personal one as my laptop bag did not fit that I have flown hundreds and hundreds of Delta flights with. This sooooooo makes me want to buy tickets on United Airlines.
When I next tested my backpack on the larger one I had the results you see above. Now granted to be fair it was OVER stuffed as I brought a jacket and it was summer in winter here in the Michiana area, but still it shows how very restrictive the unit really is. Next compare that tester to the most reasonable American Airlines unit at a gate nearby.
This, to me, is one of the most “Flyer Friendly” bag check units around. It makes no mention of anything but the one bag that will be your official carry-on and it does most of the measuring simply on the back of the device with a bar in the front.
Even my over stuffed backpack, with a little bit of convincing (no jumping needed), it fit simply into the American tester and was easy to lift out. Well done AA and with room to fudge it a bit with gate agent discretion as to if the bag will need to be checked or can go onboard with you.
While Delta’s test unit is not as slick as the AA one it still gives you a little play compared to the UA one. I have shown it is a little bigger than advertised and while the personal item is talked about on the test unit as long as it is a smaller personal item you are just fine.
Bottom line is with airlines now charging for gate checking a bag these units will one day matter more and more and you better make sure you bag is the RIGHT size. At least, for now, as Delta flyers we know there is no fee to check anything you want at the gate!
What do you think of the 3 bag testers above? Is one better than the other? Do you see issues will arise with any of these one day? Let us know in the comments below. – René