I swear, I think I must have an invisible sign over my head that says, “Attention American Airline employees: make sure her bag will fit in the overhead” that only turns visible in the presence of said American Airline employees. Because once again, I was stopped before boarding my flight by a surly faced woman in an American Airlines uniform, telling me that my bag was going to be too big to fit in the compartment above me. It never happens with Delta employees. Not Frontier ones, either. And not Southwest or JetBlue – and I’ve been on all those brands of planes since the last time this happened.
Anyway, if you’ve been read our blog long enough, or just surmised it from the previous paragraph, you’ll know that I’ve been down this road before and I know my bag will fit because I purposely bought a bag that airline crew members get, precisely because it always fits. Meanwhile, she started this challenge when I was working on 4.5 hours of sleep and my coffee hadn’t really kicked in yet, so my manners were pretty much out the window.
“Ma’am, your bag is too big to fit in the overhead. You’ll have to gate check it.””
Again? Really? Really? Stare. Glare.
“No, it’s not too big,” I said.
“Yes, it is,” said she of the sour puss and apparent need for control.
“Wanna bet?” I retorted.
“Ma’am, your bag looks like it’s too wide to fit. It has to fit within the parameters of the carry on size check over here, please.”
Now, I get it. I’m a pint sized 4’6″ and maybe my regulation 14 x 22 x 9 bag just LOOKS much bigger because I’m so small in comparison. You know, forced perspective. But OK fine, let’s go do what you insist we gotta do…
So we move over 3 feet to the right, and she slowly and carefully put my bag into the size checker. Of course, once again, it didn’t fit all the way in because, just like last time, my pillow was in it and puffed the bag out. If you push it at all, it slides right in. But if you do little more than try to gently lay it on top of the size checker, of course it won’t fit.
I told her it was because of my pillow and I’d just take that out and it would fit. Disgruntled employee said, “OK but then what will you do with your pillow if you take it out?” I rolled my eyes so far back that I was practically looking backwards and said I’d keep it behind my back.
She seemed satisfied with that plan (HALLELUJAH!), so I opened the bag and took the pillow out and of course it fit then, because I was annoyed so I practically slammed my bag into the size checker (Joe said the look on my face was priceless) as I said, probably a little too snottily but again, I was tired and annoyed and not on my best behavior, “See? I told you so.”
Unimpressed and determined to still win, she then told me that the 3rd bag I was holding would have to go into another bag.
“What third bag?” I asked. She pointed to my Tempurpedic pillow that was in a roll and held in its own cylindrical case with a handle.
“That’s not a bag, see?,” waving it probably a little too close to her face. “It’s a pillow I usually keep it behind my back when I’m not forced to put my regular pillow behind my back to prove that my bag will fit in the overhead.”
Bag interrogation over, I was allowed on my not-so-merry way, as the next person from the pool of passengers with potentially “too big bags” was told to put her bag in the size checker.
The other American gate check employee, who was was checking peoples’ tickets before they got on the plane, made it a point to tell the bag size Nazi that there wasn’t enough room to pull that many people for the size of their bags.
I passive- aggressively got some satisfaction from that ;-).
Joe was now about 5 people in front on me but when I caught up to him in our row, he put my carry on onto the seats and I put my pillow back in. And guess what?
It still fit in the overhead.
Take that, Nazi bag check lady…
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Duuuuude. I would need a drink after that exchange.
LOLOL! Yeah but it was only like 8 o’clock in the morning….;-)
Have you ever stopped to consider that American probably has smaller overhead bins. We know from experience if a bag will fit or if it will break the overhead bin and cause a maintenance delay. It’s always best to comply because then they’ll most likely work with you, especially if it’s just a pillow causing it to be slightly bigger. I promise it’s nothing personal and we’re under pressure from management.
I know it can be frustrating and sorry this keeps happening to you, but as part of the industry, I know that we are just following policy. Sometimes I wish I could ignore some things and make things easier for everybody, but unfortunately I’ve learned that inconsistencies create more issues than the slight inconveniences
American in Ohare is the worst, gate agents are just looking for a confrontation. I have use the same bag for hundreds of flights and American in Chicago is the only place I get hassled.
Just flew American for the first time and never want to again. Apparently, I myself am invisible. After I was regurgitated from the plane itself and after an attendant had called for wheelchair assist for me, I didn’t exist on their radar anymore. Regurgitate existing flyers, swallow and load new ones, that’s it. Meanwhile nobody came to help me get to baggage claim despite telling attendant I had only 45 minutes to make my shuttle. I was too exhausted to tell and finally another flyer did it for me. I’ve had more help from airport cleaners and skycaps than any AA staff. Feel like just so much junk to load in the plane and then vomit out once we arrive. Being an INFREQUENT FLYER, I’m wondering if ather airlines are any better.
The domestic airline industry would be better if American would just cease to exist. I don’t wish ill will on their employees but then, they couldn’t care less about the misery they like to inflict on us. American is our Aeroflot and the only difference seems to be at least the captain’s 10-year-old isn’t playing with the controls.
Sooo frustrating! I carry a nylon grocery bag folded up in my purse just for situations like that…love to whip it out and stuff in all items in question, including my purse (for “those” people.) With all of the onboard tension these days you would think airlines would be giving extra training on proactive positive interactions to prevent provocation of passengers! (I know…whole lot of pppp’s, but did not include pissing people off!)
Ehhh….looo, I hate America West…err..AA as mich as the next Karen but lighten up on the usage of “nazi”, ok?
You only get to use it if you’re being asked “papers, please” and/or about to be executed for no fault of yours.
Yeah, let’s have a little perspective here, ok?
I mean… I’m not gonna argue at all the fact that FAs are way more militant these days. (Although I’m definitely not going to throw around the word “Nazi” since, you know, these days we’re increasingly facing *actual* Nazis.) But, given the issues FAs now have to deal with daily (a significant shift in their responsibilities, resulting from the politicization of mask mandates, an increase in generally awful behavior, and certain people’s apparent inability to grasp that rules apply to them regardless of their beliefs), it’s 100% totally understandable. So I’ll just suggest you take a step back here. A bag that doesn’t fit overhead slows down boarding for everyone. It’s the FA’s job to prevent that from happening. Again, for the benefit of *everyone.* Your very detailed report makes it clear that, wait for it… she was actually right. Your bag would *not* fit. Understand that the FA has no idea what’s in your bag, or whether or not anything’s easily removable. And they certainly have no idea of your history with carrying on that particular bag, packed that particular way. They are encountering you for the first time, and your bag is too big. So they are doing their job. Personally, if it were me and I experienced this situation more than once, I’d think about why it was happening. If my bag fit only *after* removing something, I’d consider removing that thing prior to boarding. To eliminate the hassle to myself, and to avoid the potential inconvenience to the other passengers on the plane. Or, at a minimum, I’d be prepared to *politely* explain myself if I am challenged. Given the current climate, I absolutely would not throw even minor attitude at flight staff. I grasp and very much appreciate the crew’s need to proactively deal with possibly troublesome passengers. Any attitude is just asking for trouble. And as an experienced traveler I try to do whatever I can to avoid trouble. But perhaps that’s just me. I also know that right now it’s fashionable (and often justified) to complain about the air travel experience, (especially on American), but it doesn’t do any good to be part of the problem.
Amen Paul! Wish everybody would be able to see your comment. I’ve worked for American Airlines, QANTAS, Southwest, and Delta. You have hit every single nail on the head here. Travelers often have only a very limited perspective on how things operate, what bogs down the process, what can cause delays, fines and penalties, and more. Most travelers have NO IDEA how hard the work is within the airline industry, ESPECIALLY NOW.
Thank you!!!! As employee of any company you follow as been told !!! As a regular employee do what you company tell you to do!! Complain to the company!! It’s easy !!! Example I can’t take my angry to the employee of company bill bc it’s been raise!!! It’s NOT tHr employee it’s the COMPANY RULES!!!
This article popped up when I landed in Charlotte,
NC while I was on the 1st leg of my AA flight, when my carry-on suitcase was in the overhead bin. We went from one gate to another gate for 2nd leg of our trip. The woman checking people in said my suitcase was too big. I explained that we literally just walked off another AA plane and walked right over. I had to check my bag. The crazy thing is, besides I’d just gotten off AA flight where my bag was in the overheard compartment, that my daughter had the exact same suitcais is that she and was not stopped. We flew with her bag in the overheard compartment!
With regard to referring to someone as a “Nazi bag check lady” while simultaneously displaying a heaping helping of “attitude”, I respectfully offer some familiar guidance that we would all be well-served to adhere to:
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FYI, an airline is not a brand of aircraft.
I’m surprised the supervisor didn’t come over and say “We aren’t going to have a problem here are we?”
Nicely put, In this case well expressed the other side of the story.
CORRECT!!! ONLY ON AA!!!
I have just flown American round trip Boston to Arizona and Phoenix to Los Angeles and have been treated with the utmost care and attention. Offered more help than needed. I find proper dress,a smile,and a pleasant attitude go a long way.
The fact of the matter is, if your bag doesn’t fit easily into to sizer without cramming it in, it means it’s too thick, plain and simple. Perhaps you should inform yourself with the FAA requirements for carry on bags and what their regulations state because if there was an auditor in the gate area, the airline gets a hefty fine for non-compliance for failing to follow FAA regulations. Sorry to break it to you but you openly admitted your pillow was making your bag too thick! So, you took it out and therefore, the issue was fixed.
Thank you for saying this. As an auditor for one of the airlines that works under AA, I don’t agree with the gate agent being rude or disrespectful, but there are guidelines set forth when the ticket is purchased, when you check in, and bag sizers are placed in several locations at the airport (where these locations are depends on the airport). It is your responsibility as the passenger to make sure you follow our policies, not Southwest, not delta. The AA website is pretty user friendly, and you can find the baggage info on it. Again, I do NOT agree with the agent being rude, but they were following FAA and IATA regulations. Unfortunately not everyone follows the correct policy, which causes confusion for the passenger. But the agent was right about this bag in this situation.
And as a human (not being an airline employee right now) just because the agent is rude to you, doesn’t mean she should have been rude back. Maybe the gate agent had a 10 hour shift, had been disciplined, etc. So the passenger was having a bad day, well maybe the gate agent was too. We all get stressed, we all get frustrated, but it doesn’t help the situation to get mad back. There is too much hate now a days. And instead of understanding and open discussions, we take everything as a personal attack. We troll, we say nasty things, and we hate.
Both were wrong in this situation. Both have a right to feel attacked. And both should know, no matter what they are loved. Let’s all learn from this, grow and become a better person.
Been thru that. New thing on American is turning the bags on their side in the overhead. Actually not a bad idea.
Happened to me a week ago on AA Same bag I have used for years. Snarky gate agent. Made me gate check. Bag collected at airplane door with other bags but rather than pick up at airplane door had to go to
Baggage claim. Stupid. From the minute you enter the airport you are treated like a criminal and once on the plane it is nonstop, turn off your computer, put phone on airplane mode, raise tray table, put item under seat and on and on. I take the train whenever possible.
Barb, you’re a passenger. you aid in the weight and balance of the plane. when you are given instructions, you are to follow them. It’s really simple. should the instructions be to confusing, ask for clarification. if you don’t want to follow the instruction. take a car or train. simple enough for you ballast
We are moving to Germany for my government job and are bringing two small pets along. American Airlines is the military-contracted carrier out of our closest airport. AA customer “service” simply said that they do not allow pets on trans-Atlantic flights. Period. One person even said, “It’s due to the Covid pandemic” (??) We agreed to drive 300 miles to another airport so we could fly Delta, who welcomed our pets aboard. Never again AA!!
Due to allergies and asthma pets do not belong in the cabin of an airplane.
I think I’ve had almost this exact exchange with an AA agent myself. Their bag sizer is ridiculous and smaller than the danged overhead. In my own gate agent stand-off I opened my bag, pulled out three tops and a sweatshirt and proceeded to layer them all over my clothes. I then stuck it in the sizer and responded, “problem solved”. I thought her head might literally spin off she was so mad. But, I boarded.
Well, on the surface, that bag is oversized, since it can’t fit within the sizer (as demonstrated by the picture). The travel pillow does technically count as a third item, and you were called out on it.
If you want to complain about something, at least be on the right side of the rules.
Just was on one of the regional flights and they usually will “Valet ” it if it’s close to being oversized. Figure it is the least they could do after getting 14 billion in taxpayers $$$!!
Are you taking about the $25 billion airline bailout? The one that AA got $5.8 billion of and Delta got $5.4 billion and pretty much every other domestic airline took their proportionate piece of? Irrelevant.
Bet you’re glad you don’t live anywhere else in the world where it’s not only size but also weight for overhead items. The weight rule has nothing to do with what fits or doesn’t, it’s what they perceive as safe if it falls out. On some airlines there is zero negotiating, it’s max 6/7/8/10 kg (etc.) or it’s getting checked in (often weighed at the check in counter, so if you’re overweight then you’re paying too).
Oh yes, I know, LOL! It makes for some very creative packing. 😉
I don’t understand why you’re having these issues. I always fly AA.
I was on a flight just last week. Never had any problems with gate agents or carry on bags. Never once had the size of a bag checked. Voluntarily gate checked bags many times. Seen people drag all sorts of things onto the airplane ✈. I just don’t get the issues you’re having.
I was also told my bag was too big for the overhead bin by an American Airlines flight attendant. Luckily, there was bin space right near where she told me that so I showed her it fit fine. Checking wastes your time and might cause your bag to be lost.
On the small regional jets most carry ons just barely fit (sideways) so they valet them, meaning they are put in last and come out first before you enter the airport. After about 20 people with the type of bag in the article no more fit. On the 145’s almost anything with wheels won’t fit. The agents aren’t being mean they are attempting to make the boarding process happen quicker, some bags won’t fit and the person has to walk back up the aisle and valet it taking time from boarding and making crew load them later, others will jam it in and break the overhead which in turn causes a maintenance delay and makes everyone wait.
So I carry a backpack that fits under every seat and in every overhead bin and never have a problem.
Flew with my 84 year old mom and disabled wife a year ago not on AA, handicap help was a joke. On one flight I wheeled them both on one at a time and another they slid down the wall of the jet way and I hauled the carry ins. The chairs should be thrown out and replaced.
I’m on the other end of this. It’s frustrating when people who fly try to stuff everything above and hold everyone up when leaving. Just check it and relax!!
I’ve already had an airline lose my luggage for 24+ hours. Unfortunately, I’m not a body size that can just go out an buy new clothes (4’6″ – pants and shirts don’t fit me “off the rack”). So I have to bring a carry on so I can have a days’ worth of clothes with me. Otherwise I would LOVE to check everything!
I work for an airline and I’m a gate agent. When flights are full and all passengers have carryons (When a plane holds 150 people we cannot fit 150 gate checks in the overhead bin we can only fit about 100) we have to get passengers to check them, because some passengers overstuff their bags and take up the space of two bags instead of one or place their personal item that is supposed to go under the seat in front of them in the overhead make it worse for the passengers trying to follow the rules.
That being said carry-on allowance is one carry-on and one personal item. Pillows that will be used during flight, and a bag of snacks to consume during flight, and medical devices are not counted as a carry-on. So she was wrong with harassing you over the pillow. So if that happens again tell her to redo her carry-on baggage policy lesson that we are required to do every six months. But when we don’t get enough checked bags prior to boarding after we make announcement after announcement about baggage we are forced to find another route to check enough bags to get our plane out on time because we cannot take a delay because people are on the airplane struggling to put their large oversize bags in the overhead preventing the boarding process from going smoothly.
I am a DM on Delta, and I really wish the gate agents AND FAs would enforce the carry-on policy. Especially on regional jets. FC passengers are the worst…thinking they can put both bags overhead. I only have a backpack, and I put that overhead, because it’s my only bag.
I’m with the frequent flyers and attendants who are tired of carry on luggage delaying flight departures AND banging us in the side of the head. Check it.
It seems to me, that the person was just doing their job, though maybe a bit grumpily. Can you imagine just for a few moment, what their experience has been since the pandemic? And, as you point out in your comment guidelines, we should all try to be kind. Not just when others are kind to us but most importantly when they are not. She may have also had too little sleep.
Honestly all crew members are only following rules and just trying to do their job. Maybe reschedule for a better time. And if you see that your bag is bulky because of a pillow just take it out and put it in your personal bag. These rules are made for the safety and comfort of all passengers… Not to ruin your morning. You are definitely not her first or last passenger who she has to go over this with. I can’t imagine how exhausting it is for her as well.
Looks as if removing the pillow prior to boarding knowing it was the issue would have prevented the exchange. Many see this is a personal thing until something happens and the overloaded overhead compartment falls on people. If you were aware that this company has limited overhead space (not all interior sizes are common to all airlines) yet you took offense at an agent that in an 8 day sees hundreds of challenging customers, like you, I can finalize my comment by indicating you care very little for others that simply are trying to do a task. OK? The photo was evidence the agent was correct.
I had the same ordeal in Dallas, only the person went even further to humiliate me and said “not only are you checking your carry on but you will carry it for me to the area I tell you!
we Bring a carry on bag with items we need for a month of travel. Also a shoulder bag with important items like a cell phone , tablet, etc. Go very light, the fastest and easiest way to travel.
@AUDITOR The FAA does not regulate the size of carry on bags.
@Bill G FAA Does regulate the airlines compliance and enforcement of policies set by said airline.
The OPS agent was right on both accounts. Your bag WAS oversized and you are only allowed two carry-ons. I don’t expect to see this post on your site because I don’t agree with you.
There’s nothing wrong with disagreement. However we don’t allow rudeness or name calling and, as you saw in our link to “Want to comment? Read this first,” will remove those parts of comments that do so.
You’re lucky you were not dragged off the walkway in hand cuffs! Good for you.
I have this exact same problem multiple times with my bag. A Nazi AA gate agent in LA threatened to bump me off my flight to Hawaii after I took exception to her hassling me. I told her the flight I got off 2 hours ago had no problem and it easily fit into overhead bin. She still threatened to not let me fly because of my “behavior”. What a royal biotch. I wanted to tell that as I walked down the jetway, but my wife would have none of it. Had a similar incident at DFW. AA gate agents just love screwing with people they don’t like.
You pack like that, you get asked that question. Just deal with it.
Your frustration with the agent’s attitude is certainly justified. We have all dealt with crumby attitudes at the gate. However, their frustration with you is also justified. If they see a bag puffing out like that, how are they to know it’s a pillow inside? Are they in your house watching you pack? Also, company policy states that you get one carry on and one personal item. Your tempurpedic pillow, however cylindrical, still takes up space. It counts as an additional item. Other than having an attitude, I don’t see the airline as having done anything wrong. That said, I’m sorry you didn’t get much sleep that night. I hope your next experience goes better than the last.
Yet, you said yourself your bag was too big until you took the pillow out 😉
Pillows squash. Especially memory foam pillows. 😉
The problem with carry on luggage started a number of years ago when airlines started charging for checked luggage. Strangely, airlines which do not charge for checked luggage and yes, there are still a few out there, do not have the sort of problems the writer of this article and others have pointed out. Solution: get rid of checked luggage charges and ULCA fees and find a better way of dealing with this problem.
I’ve also had this problem and have always been able to fit my bag on the plane. Checking your bag was a more reasonable option when it was free. Also, I have had things stolen out of my checked bag. Since I typically travel with things of more value than the allowance that would be paid if my entire bag was stolen, checking a bag doesn’t seem like a good idea. I would say half the flights I am on insist on checking people’s bags and there is still room in the overhead bins when we leave the airport. If they want to shorten the boarding time, go back to free checked bags.
The pillow is rough 10″ long and 5″ in diameter. I put it behind my lumbar spine. Because even “professional” travelers get low back pain.
Why on earth would you want to fly on the worst airline in the country…make that world?
LOLOL! American is indeed not our favorite. It just worked out that time. 😉
In all fairness, your bag fit in the overhead bin after you took the pillow out, and a pillow inside a bag with a drawstring is still considered a bag. To make things smoother I would just carry one pillow outside any type cover (once you get through the dirty bag belt at security) so your roller bag doesn’t bulge. They shouldn’t have a problem with one lightly packed carry-on, one personal item and one pillow in your arm. Hopefully you’ll have a better trip next time.
I am a gate agent at AA. I am embarrassed at some of the attitudes I have witnessed over the years from AA customer service agents. I do believe this comes down to lack of management and also being short staffed at the airline it seems some attitude is tolerated just to keep the agents working. The airlines have a huge shortage below and above the wing. This does not excuse the behavior. I flew myself a couple of months ago and the gate agent knew I was employee doing the exact same job she does and she was rude as can be… I thought about reporting her but probably would not have done anything but wasted my time. Going back to the bags.. did you know we have like 50 min from the time the plane parks to the time the doors close back up newly boarded? In that time, a Boing 737 with about 170 slow moving passengers get off, we have to remove all wheelchair passengers that need assistance some we even have to lift physically in and out of their seat because they can’t stand.. then the aircraft has to get cleaned then loaded and we get points even if it’s 10 seconds late going out.. bottom line here is yes the bags a lot of times causes delays. Once everyone is on there are people trying to fit their bags overhead, once they figure out they can’t the flight attendant then brings the bags back and we have to go back to print bag tags, meanwhile cargo is just waiting to close but no.. can not because we have more bags that did not fit. I understand that it’s frustrating yes totally but you have to trust that there are things agents deal with that you do not see and if we don’t get the job done and turn the plane on time we get points and we do not want that. We do our best to accommodate however after years of fighting this battle we do get irritated too.. I completely agree with you, no customer service agent should ever be rude. I am the nicest person you will ever meet but once in a while I’m told off because the customer doesn’t line the responses.. like u were late, missed the flight, weather delay, etc. when people are rude it’s hard to be nice back. As far as the two vs 3 items, again it goes back to space. Do you know how many place their personal items in the overhead? Even tho they already put their roller bag there? Tons.. again it’s a space issue. I’m sorry you had this experience but I assure u we are not all bad. Hope this helps!
One time an AA gate agent made me go to the back of the line because I had a “third item”. That third item? My wallet that I had pulled my boarding pass out of. I said I was going to put it back in my purse now that my boarding pass was scanned, but no I was forced to the back of the line in shame. I never fly AA now, their workers are so unbelievably rude for no reason.