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Some US airlines will gate check carry-on luggage, either when they run out of overhead compartment space or when some bags are too large. In theory, would it be possible to bring a large suitcase (one that a sane person would check) to the gate, then have it gate checked there for free?

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    When you say "large suitcase", do you still mean that it would be within the size limits for cabin baggage, or that it would exceed those?
    – dunni
    Jan 6 at 8:04
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    Bad idea: If it's obviously too large, they will have you put in the sizer and if it doesn't fit they either charge you and arm and a leg for gate checking it or send you back to the check in counter.
    – Hilmar
    Jan 6 at 13:03
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    No. You won't get through security with a bag that does not fit on the xray conveyer. Jan 7 at 17:42
  • It might be true in some airports that you can not get a full size suitcase to the gate, it is certainly not true in all airports. I have seen full size cases at the gate of more than one airport. (They were gate checked in at least one case but not for free as far as I remember.)
    – Willeke
    Jan 7 at 18:18
  • Consider this: gate checking is normally handled manually while check-in-checking is handled by automated conveyor belts. Finding one or two handler persons that will pull an oversize/overweight bag is a technical problem IMO Jan 12 at 12:46

1 Answer 1

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Bags which exceed the allowed size (or number, or weight) for carry-on are not gate-checked for free. You are charged a fee for this, which is usually more expensive than if you had paid for it in advance.

Items which are gate-checked for free are those within the allowance which won’t fit in the cabin due to lack of space or because the aircraft has smaller than usual overhead bins.

In addition, past a certain size, larger items won’t be able to go through security as they don’t fit in the scanners, so you wouldn’t even reach the gate.

There are a few exceptions for some specific items (especially larger musical instruments), but those are quite limited and often have specific rules (like booking an extra seat for your cello for instance). They vary from airline to airline.

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    One time in the US I arrived at a check-in 5 minutes after they stopped accepting checked luggage for a flight. The check-in "person" gave me two options 1) re-book for a different flight or 2) Take my very large suitcase through security and have it gate checked. I opted for the re-book because I wasn't sure I'd get through security in the first place (I could imagine security telling me to go back to check-in etc)
    – Peter M
    Jan 6 at 14:30
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    @KRyan I have seen carry on size checks at an airport, and the gate staff enforcing the limits.
    – Peter M
    Jan 7 at 20:42
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    @KRyan LCCs tend to be much more strict about this. I once flew with a low-cost airline (Tiger) where all passengers were required to place all carry-on luggage in a sizer before they were allowed into the gate area. Jan 7 at 23:52
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    There are certainly cases of gate checking carry-on luggage in Europe, especially among the LCCs. While travelling back from a conference with a colleague on a well-known budget airline, the all-seeing eye of the gate staff asked my colleague to check the size of his - somewhat large, bulging - carry-on in the sizer. He had to work up a sweat to encourage it to fit, but to his surprise managed to do so and avoided a fee. Imagine his face when she turns to me, next in line, with a small bag, which will clearly internally fragment their limited overhead bin space, and gate checks it for free! Jan 8 at 1:20
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    In Europe, EasyJet have a pretty strict policy. Most passengers are only allowed one single item with a size limit smaller than usual (so that it can fit under a seat). Only passengers paying extra are allowed the larger carry-ons. Enforcement varies, but when they do (and it’s quite frequent), they won’t let anything through, and they do really charge for gate-checked items at that point, and they usually catch a few dozen passengers.
    – jcaron
    Jan 8 at 9:27

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