I remember a few years ago (after the September 11 air-travel earthquake) talking to a friend and saying that airlines needed to invent a new way to allow people to bring along baggage, since checking bags at the counter had become untenable. Well, it looks to me that a little-used old option has exploded in recent years, with planeside baggage checking becoming the de facto standard, especially for business travelers. But take a look at this photo from Philadelphia last week – has it gotten out of hand?
Certainly gate-checking has been relegated to families, golfers, and infrequent fliers. Look at the lines at check-in gates and baggage carousels these days, and it’s no wonder people like me who fly weekly (or even more often than that) choose to check in online and skip these lines. I recall a family trip where we had 12 items to check (no kidding) and waited in line for over an hour, first to get our check tags and then to send them through the bomb sniffer. And since Americans just can’t seem to figure out that standing back from the baggage claim carousel gives more people a shot at claiming their bag, it’s always an hour-long nightmare after the flight, too.
So we frequent travelers invest in 21″ and 22″ cases and garment bags and head directly to the gate. We pause to get our planeside check ticket (which have gotten laughable – US Airways no longer even gives you a numbered receipt to match!) and drop them off on the jet bridge.
But it’s after the flight that the trouble starts. With so many people taking advantage of what was once just an option for baby strollers and such, exiting the plane has gotten pretty crazy. Look at that photo again – there are more than two dozen people standing along both walls, crowding and slowing the exit to a crawl. And it can’t be easy on the baggage handlers to load and unload the planes extra-quick for these folks.
How long before the airlines start pushing back, forcing gate checking again? All these bags slow security (thanks especially to the ridiculous Ziploc rule), slow boarding, slow loading and unloading (even if the plane is big enough to handle the bags in the overhead compartments), and tax the system in general. But I for one intend to go on checking my bags planeside…