Delta Wants to Speed Up Boarding With This New Carry-On Trial

The airline is testing a plan that allows select customers to check their carry-on bag for free.

Delta Wants to Speed Up Boarding With This New Carry-On Trial

Would you check your bags if there was no charge to do so?

Photo by j.chizhe/Shutterstock

If you’ve ever been on a flight jam-packed with passengers and their carry-on luggage, you know that sometimes too much is just, well, actually too much—the carry-on luggage won’t always fit. Not to mention it can severely slow down the boarding process as fliers eternally search for one last slot to tuck their wheeled luggage into before the flight attendants finally call it and start checking bags.

Delta Air Lines is looking at ways to potentially resolve this issue. On select flights from Boston, as well as from Orlando and Tampa in Florida, some Delta customers will receive a text message four hours prior to their departure with an offer “to participate in a test where a carry-on bag, defined as one piece of luggage to not exceed 45 linear inches (combined length, width and height), can be checked in the check-in lobby for free with a Delta agent at bag drop,” Delta told AFAR in a statement. Anything larger than a standard carry-on will not be accepted.

This pilot program is currently slated to last one month, and according to the company, “This test is designed to help Delta teams better understand how fewer carry-on bags can positively impact the customer experience—from arriving at the airport through boarding the aircraft.”

Delta currently charges $30 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second checked bag. (Delta SkyMiles American Express card holders, those with Delta Medallion Status, and active military members aren’t charged.) And each passenger is entitled to one free carry-on and one personal item.

At AFAR, we’ve long debated the merits of carry-on luggage versus checking your bags. With some notable exceptions, such as Southwest Airline’s gracious two-included-checked-bags policy, typically it costs extra to check a bag. And there’s also the issue of the added time to check the bag in and then waiting for it at the luggage carousel after the flight.

Many travelers would rather bypass the added fees and time and simply bring their belongings with them directly onto the flight. But maybe if checking bags didn’t cost extra, more travelers would opt to check them in, leading to less carry-on luggage congestion onboard.

The revenue airlines make from baggage fees is not inconsequential. U.S. carriers charged passengers $5.7 billion in baggage fees in 2019—Delta alone made $1.04 billion in baggage fees that year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Delta did not provide any additional details as to what kinds of policy changes it might be making with regards to carry-on and checked bags. The carrier simply stated that it will “carefully consider the data that comes from this test in an effort to make boarding flights smoother for customers.” For now, this is just a test.

>> Next: The Best Checked Luggage for #TeamNoCarryOn

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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