by Bob Bestor
We’ve all seen travelers lugging oversized bags on board and straining to cram them into the overhead bins. And when we see it we ask ourselves, “Man, how’d that guy get that on board?” Well, it’s likely that he skipped the ticket counter altogether by checking in and printing his boarding pass online. Then he was able to head straight to security where the TSA didn’t bother to do anything but x-ray his luggage. After that the gate agent was the first and only airline representative who could have even looked at his luggage before he got on board. But gate agents are often working alone and doing two or three things at once. So he made it. And oversized or not, as long as he could stuff it overhead, he was good.
On my recent trip to India I was that guy. Well, sort of. But at least I did it with the blessing of a friendly United gate agent.
I arrived at Rogue Valley International Medford Airport (no, really—that’s what it’s called) with a standard, maximum-sized 22” wheeled carry-on, a daypack, and a guitar in a soft-sided case. If you’re counting, and the airlines usually do, that’s three bags. Now I was fully prepared to check the suitcase, although my preference was not to check anything. But traveling internationally, I knew that at least my checked bag would be free.
I was not able to print my boarding pass online, so I had to go to the United ticket counter first, where I was only asked if I “wanted” to check anything. Of course I answered “no”. TSA didn’t take notice either and soon I was at the gate with my three bags and my boarding pass in hand. The gate agent took a look at me and my bags and frowned. “Do I have to check something?” I asked. “Well, she said, “you’re not allowed to bring three items on board. But, a few years ago a country singer had a big hit with a song about how United breaks guitars. So I’m not going to be the person who starts another round of that.” And voila, no checking for me. This time at least.