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Delta’s BIGGER problem than ESAs i.e. Emotional Support Animals – MEGA carry-on bags!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Is this bag too big to fit in the Delta “Size Check” unit? My guess is yes!

I have been flying Delta for many, many years. Heck, this year alone I have already flown over 30 individual flights on Delta Air Lines and their Skyteam partners. While I have not “seen it all” I have seen a disturbing change over the past few years that I am sure you have noticed as well. What is that? Folks bring ever larger luggage onboard and sometimes 3 or 4 carry-on items. To me this, and I see it on just about each and every flight, is a much larger problem that Delta is not addressing like the heavy handed approach to the issue of ESAs (or fake ESAs).

I have videoed many of my fellow passengers walking by me this past month and was going to make a montage of any number of mega sized bags but was having an issue blurring out personal identification on some of the bags so I will let the above bag represent the lot. One bag I saw was so massive that, turned sideways, it took up just about the entire bin on it’s own (the lady had a second bag that was also massive plus had a huge purse, backpack and winter coat). Clearly ridiculous. But who is to blame for this?

Where have all of these gone?

Here and there throughout Delta’s major hubs (but less so nowadays it seems) you may see one of the above size check boxes. They used to be all over the place at check-in and at gates (now more and more all you see is a big sticker near the gate agent’s desk). Years ago Delta agents would look at your bags and sometimes even ask you to test your bag that it will in fact fit inside the unit that verified your bag is compliant and will fit inside the overhead without issues on a vast majority of it’s planes. I can not even tell you the last time I saw any sized bag challenged as to if it was “size check” approved.

Yep. These fit just fine!


Fits here too with no issues Delta!

I asked who is to blame. My wife and I both have the same perfect Samsonite spinner bags that I have reviewed in a post here. Not only do they say they fit according to the measurements from the manufacturer but I have put them into the “size check” box itself to verify this. So as to my personal travels I am not “part of the problem”. But I am not lily white as on this very blog I have shown, for years, that if the bag will fit into the TSA x-ray machine you can bring it to the gate (unless there are sub-contracter goons blocking you like in MIA). Now in that post, and other ones like that, to be clear, I am not recommending anyone bring on-board one of these mega bags. No, I was just demonstrating a way to avoid paying hefty bag fees as Delta will, at your request, once you get your bag to the gate, check it to your final destination free of charge.

So why is this happening and what are the results? I speculate this is happening because Delta is more concerned about getting the flight out on time vs. taking the time to police each and every bag. Stopping the line again and again to force folks to check a bag when departure time is drawing near does not help one bit. To be fair I have seen, now and then, gate agents ask folks with 3 (or more) bags to condense them down to 2 (you are allowed 1 bag and 1 small personal item) but that is the exception rather than the rule.

Am I then calling for stringent gate checks of all our bags? Yes, but I get there will be negative consequences for a while. If gate agents do this will it impact the time they have to come on-board and upgrade an elite when there is an empty 1st class seat? You bet, but this rarely ever happens in 2018 anyway.  🙁  Could this mean flights are delayed in departure for a time while folks get used to the fact that their bags can not be the size of a ship’s steamer trunk? Maybe, or maybe Delta will just have to add some gate personnel for a while to enforce the standing rules.

Bottom line is this is a problem. MEGA bags is one of the reasons you hear on just about every single flight the gate agents before boarding announcing that by ZONE 2 (really group 5 fyi) they will start to force everyone to check their bags to their final destination (they could likely even start at ZONE 1 but many either pay or get a Delta AmEx card for this 4th boarding group to get their bags on-board with them). If more passengers were like me and had a bag that does fit correctly (either wheels or handles in) then more on the jet would have space for their bags.

You tell me. Do you agree that this is a major issue with Delta that they should address? Is it an even larger issue than the Emotional Support Animal issue that has recently become such a hot button topic in the news? Are you willing to suffer some short term consequences that could very well happen if Delta were to start enforcing the existing carry-on bag size rules? You tell me! – Rene



Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Enforcing this a little bit more would make the boarding process more pleasant and perhaps save a few minutes. They could also go the Spirit airlines route and be super strict about blatant violations which would generate bad will as well as hundreds of millions or billions in additional revenue.

    But it would also create great stress and conflict at the gate. Especially since the people who violate this rule would be mostly infrequent travelers.

  2. The teal bag in your first picture looks like a standard 22” Travel Pro Crew bag and would fit straight into the bin, wheels first. But yes I agree, big bags are a problem for most carriers. If the rollaboard doesn’t fit straight in, its too big and should be checked immediately, end of discussion.

  3. I love DM’s who board with luggage that violates the rules. Thankfully most gate agents won’t challenge them. Because the DM rule- breakers are desperate for overhead bin space they board with the premium group even if they haven’t cleared the upgrade list. Then, because of a no show, I end with what should have been THEIR first class seat.
    Ha. Ha. Long live #TeamBoardLast

  4. I agree that oversize carry-ons are a problem but so are ESA’s. I haven’t heard of a carry-on biting a passenger’s face off like the passenger that had to bring an 80 pound, uncontained and unrestained dog to avoid paying the airline pet charge.

    Yes, oversize carry-on baggage is a problem so are oversize ESA’s. I am an Alaska Airlines elite and I have noticed the same thing, nobody is using the “carry-on sizer” at the gate. I believe that Delta did take the lead in making the passenger prove that an ESA is medically needed and that it is healthy and vaccinated. But what about oversize dogs, peacocks and horses? What’s next, an emotional support elephant?

    Airlines created the carry-on problem with the advent of checked baggage charges and made it worse by not enforcing their own carry-on rules for years. When it comes to pets and baggage, everybody is trying to avoid paying the ancillary fees.

  5. Or like yesterday. Overhead bins were almost full during prem boarding as I watched people putting in two bags each.

  6. Michael McLean Reply

    Sure, folks should follow the guidelines, but it will continue as long as the airlines charge outrageous fees for checking luggage. But I don’t get your gripe–we’re always in the first boarding group, so it doesn’t take any of our space away. Let’s don’t set up any more Delta police than we currently have.

  7. Simple fix: charge for carry-on that’s not a personal item. Make 1st checked free for all pax. Free carry-on for Medallion members.

    My guess is that most excessive carry-ons are due to price-sensitive pax. They’ll be happy to get a free checked, which will open up bin space for FF’s, which will make them happy. Less Zone 1/2 OH space issues will result in less hassles for FAs and make it easier to hit push time, which will make DL happy.

    I can’t see a downside.

  8. Rene, I totally agree. My wife and I always book 1st/Delta One and last month we saw another couple take up two first class overhead bins with their eight (8) bags they brought on board. I guess if they want to schlep that many bags through terminals more power to them; as for me we’ll continue checking our luggage to our destination, save for a briefcase and purse.

  9. Roberta S Fleischmann Reply

    I think oversize carry on bags is a HUGE, HUGE problem thT definitely needs to be addressed CONSTANTLY AND CONSISTENTLY BY DELTA AGENTS at the gate. My solutuon is to charge travelers FOR BAGS CARRIED ON not the ones that are checked. I know this would be a inconvenience for business travelers but it would certainly help stop the “too big to carry on” problem. I am halfway to two million miles on Delta alone so I have had to put up with being banged, scraped, crowded, hit and in general abused by those bringing on steamer trunks sized bags and calling them”carry ons”!

  10. A lot of this problem could be avoided if Delta would just allow people to check a bag for free. If someone can check a bag for free they would be a lot more likely to check than to try to carry on everything but the kitchen sink.

    If they allowed non-status to check bags for free would be nicer for diamonds like me who carry on. Instead of being the first to board so I can have bin space, I could enjoy another beverage at the sky club or get another email out before boarding.

    Or in the case if you get a gate agent who doesn’t follow deltas new rules where they are suppose to come on board and upgrade you if you are next on the list if there is a no show. If I’m number one to three and the gate agent says you board you lose I’ll wait and by the time I clear (or don’t clear) the bin space is usually full. Fortunately in those situations the flight attendant will see my diamond MM tag and will find the space in a bin or put it in the closet (that’s the main reason I use my diamond tags).

    People don’t want to pay checked bag fees. It’s the same reason there is a problem with ESA’s. Delta charges an absurd fee and then says you have to give up your carry on. If Delta would charge a reasonable (says $25 each way) fee and wouldn’t restrict your luggage (who wants to wait on their bag when they are travelling with a pet) the abuse of ESA’s would go down big time. Same if they waived the first check bag fee, I think you would see a lot fewer passengers abusing it.

  11. I’d like to see DL enforce and fix the boarding mess that I often see (and not those stupid “EPQS” that often make the crowding worse especially in small gate areas like DCA) I more often than not will see PAX with Zone 2 and 3 on their boarding passes board when they call PREM and never see them get turned back. The worse example that I have experienced was on a IAD-ATL flight a couple months ago where there where about 50 PAX in a line in front of me when they called PREM (they where all not PREM customers as the guy in front of me had Zone 2 on his BP) The GA probably boarded about 30 pax and finally realized that this was too many for PREM and started turning people around and all of the PAX left the line as they weren’t really in PREM. I was the last FC PAX to board and by the time I got on the MD-88, I had to put my bag back in Y because all of the fake boarders decided that they should just put all of there stuff in the first bins they see (even though most of them were in the back of the aircraft)

  12. I think the airlines have it backwards. Free to check bags, charge for carry ons. Boarding time will shorten dramatically.

  13. Not to mention these mega bags become knee/head/shoulder knockers when amor pax walk down the aisle unaware of their bag bumping everyone

    Looks like your bag is a hair too tall on the photo. I don’t think a straight edge would pass over the top of the bin sizer without hitting your bag

  14. Santastico Reply

    Blame on Delta for been greedy. When they charge to check bags and usually damage the bags while handling them people decide to take whatever they can with them on the flight. You are talking volume here but you would not imagine how heavy some e bags are. I once tried to help a lady to place her huge duffel bag on the overhead bin and it was extremely heavy. EU airlines are much less reasonable and won’t allow people to board with anything over their limits which in my opinion are quite low.

  15. dot cahill Reply

    yes i have seenbigger bags that take up the whole bin!!nuts and then they have a coat and a purse and another bag that goes into another bin>>>>The FA’s will stand there and watch someone put 3 things in the overhead and not say a thing!!! then zone 1 needs to check their bags crazy

  16. One of the reasons I fly Delta is that I can get my 22” roll aboard and a backpack in the overhead bin. Delta seems to know better than to mess with DMs and their luggage.

    If Mr. & Mrs Zone 2 have to check their bags, I don’t care. Once they fly 3 million miles and get on with a PREM boarding pass they’ll be able to find plenty of overhead bin space.

    When I fly another airline I know there may not be bin space when I board and I’m fine with that.

  17. So many of you are suggesting that they allow checked bags for free as the solution – but I don’t think that will actually change anything. Almost every flight I board is preceded by the gate agent begging passengers to check their bags – FREE OF CHARGE – to speed the boarding process. If the issue was simply people avoiding the fee, they would all jump at the chance. The fact that so few people take advantage of this shows that they aren’t interested.

    • That’s because that bag is free either way to the pax. If they have to pay for a carry-on regardless, I think you’d see different behavior.
      Of course, that brings up the question of what do no-frills shops like Spirit do when a pax goes to board with an “unpaid” carry-on? Step aside so we can swipe your card while others board? Never flown one, so don’t know. But it couldn’t be something that mucks up boarding time, or it creates another problem.

  18. I’m a professional photographer. Carry on bags are essential so that I can get my cameras, lenses, laptop, hard drives, etc. to my locations. I always try and get early boarding as it’s pretty essential that those fragile items find a carry on bin. My expensive equipment needs a bin, huge cases of underwear and tee shirts can absolutely ride in the belly of the plane. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve been asked to check my bag due to no more room. I would love to see carry on abusers policed as there actually some of us out there that need to bring fragile items. I really wish that the airlines would adapt a media carry on policy similar to the media baggage policy to better guarantee I can get my equipment from point A to B. Try doing that with an EU carrier and a 12 lb limit.

  19. I would love check bags but as long as airlines are losing them, destroying them (seen an employee throw a bag lately? I have…), and allowing employees and/or the TSA to burlarize them that’s not really a good option, and I’m quite surprised to see you not mention it. I bring stuff in carry-ons usually not just because I don’t want to stand around for 30 minutes waiting for my stuff on the other end but because I actually want to get it at all – as long as airlines are allowed to lose or destroy your bags or allow stuff to be stolen out of them and not actually compensate you for the loss, people will not want to check anything. The system of denying people coverage for damage or loss is fundamentally broken and contributes materially to this problem.

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