I'm on a flight that is currently delayed 4 hours due to runway conditions at the destination airport. We boarded and were then de-planed. They made us gate-check all our carry on luggage so that (as per usual) we could pick it up on the jet bridge at the destination.

I'm at a major hub and there are numerous flights into cities near my destination that are not having issues with weather. However, the airline will not return our carry-on bags, so I can't get on a different flight (or even drive it) without giving up my luggage. There are dozens of other passengers in my boat - we'd all like to go on different flights or even drive, but the airline is refusing to retrieve our bags.

Do we have any recourse here other than customer service complaints?

My fear is that they'll keep us here for hours, cancel the flight, and then give us our bags once there's no time to get on the alternative options.

  • 3
    Depends on policies of airline, airport, and country.
    – WGroleau
    Feb 8, 2021 at 21:51
  • 4
    This is American Airlines for a domestic flight in the USA. At this point, they finally cancelled the flight, and sent my carry-on to baggage claim, and I was unable to make some of the earlier connections. Thankfully, I still got on the last flight to a city near my destination. So, I'm out of the woods. I'd still be interested in an answer to this, though. Feb 8, 2021 at 23:46
  • I'm not sure enough to write an answer, but I honestly don't even think that the airline in this situation is required to allow you to deplane, but could have kept both you and your luggage in tha aircraft for an extended period of time. Feb 9, 2021 at 13:05
  • AFAIK the US has some rules for maximum time in the aircraft here, although i don't know the specific names of the rules, but i think it comes from the DOT.
    – dunni
    Feb 9, 2021 at 19:41
  • 3
    I wonder what would happen if you went to the gate desk and said: "I do not intend to board this flight. What will happen to my luggage?" Jun 2, 2021 at 5:06

2 Answers 2


For what it's worth, my understanding based on the comments on this question, and multiple conversations I had with airline representatives (including gate agents and customer service call center folks) is that the airline has NO obligation to return your luggage in this situation.

In my case, my worst fears became a reality. They kept us in limbo for hours, then cancelled the flight after it was too late to practically drive, and most of the convenient flights to nearby airports had already gone out. To really rub salt in the wound, they sent our carry-on bags to baggage claim instead of bringing them back up to the gate, and it took them about another 1.5 hours to show up in baggage claim.

Needless to say, there was a group of very unhappy people picking up their carry-ons, trying to book new flights, and going back through TSA security.


None whatsoever if you are in the USA on an American carrier.

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