Never Forget to Do This Before Boarding, Flight Attendant Warns

Experts say taking advantage of one thing can can have a huge effect on your trip.

Booking a flight might be the most crucial step in getting away, but it's only the first in a series of preparations. You'll also have to pack your bags, figure out how to get to the airport, and get through security and to your gate before you can jet off. But besides these necessities, flight attendants warn there's one extra step you should take before boarding a flight to make sure your travel goes as smoothly as possible. Read on to see what experts say could save you plenty of pre-plane grief.

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Flight attendants say you should always check your largest bag before boarding the plane.

Woman in blue jeans holding luggage

Even the shortest trip possible involves some form of packing and luggage. But if you're looking to avoid any last-minute surprise and avoid unnecessary stress at the airport, flight attendants suggest checking your bags before boarding your flight—especially if it's your most oversized bag.

"Some passengers are completely covered with sweat from carrying too many personal items, backpacks, and carry-ons," Arina Bloom, a flight who worked in the industry for two years, wrote for Business Insider. "It's so much easier to check your luggage and walk on the plane relaxed and stress-free."

Ground crew will often let you check your bag at the gate free of charge.


Whether it's avoiding an added fee or not wanting to deal with the hassle of a potentially lost bag, many travelers go to great lengths to avoid checking their luggage before a flight. But even if you've already made it through security with your bags, there's still no guarantee you'll be able to keep them with you down the jetway. This can mean sacrificing packing as much as you like, only to be forced to wait at the baggage carousel when you arrive anyway.

And if you're worried about paying more, ground crews are happy to take your bags off your hands for you before the boarding process begins in most cases. "It's also not always possible to find a space for everyone's bag, so your extra items may need to be checked regardless," Bloom says. "If you're worried about paying extra, ask an attendant at the gate. They're usually happy to check it for free if the flight is full."

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It's essential to check your luggage if you don't think you can lift your bag into an overhead bin.

Man pulling out hand luggage from compartment while traveling by plane. Vacation, transportation concept

Having a bag with wheels may make it easier to get it around the airport, but it's an entirely different story when it comes to actually lifting your unchecked luggage into an overhead bin for your flight. Unfortunately, if you can't find a friendly fellow passenger to help you at this point, the flight attendants on the plane still can't step up to lend a hand. During a 2019 interview with Inside Edition, flight attendant Jamila Hardwick revealed that you should never ask a flight attendant to store your luggage for you.

"We do not get paid until the boarding door is closed," she explained. "If we get hurt while putting that bag in the overhead bin, we do not get to write it off as an on-job injury."

To prevent flight attendants from having a costly accident, you might want to think twice before bringing a large bag onto an airplane. "The rule is if you can't lift it into the overhead bin yourself, check it," former flight attendant Shawn Kathleen told Yahoo! Travel in 2015. Once your bag is in the overhead bin, the most that a flight attendant can do is push it farther in and help close the door.

Check your airline's checked luggage policies before you even pack.

A young couple packing a suitcase for a trip while sitting on a bed

For some road-hardened travelers, the aversion to checking bags in the first place could be based on outdated information. New technology and improved practices have made lost luggage an increasing rarity. In 2020, only 3.5 bags per 1,000 passengers were lost, marking a 37.5 percent reduction from the previous year, according to a report from SITA, an air transport communications and information technology. By comparison, 18.9 bags were lost per 1,000 passengers in 2007.

Regardless of your plans, it can be important to check your airline's checked bag and carry-on policy before you even pack, especially if you're flying a low-cost carrier. Recently, Frontier Airlines announced that it had reduced the weight limit for carry-on bags from 50 pounds to 40 pounds per bag, forcing passengers to pay an extra $50 for any luggage found to be too heavy upon arrival at the airport. And with other airlines such as JetBlue changing policies about how many bags some passengers can bring onto a plane, getting caught off guard can lead to some serious last-minute fees.

But it's not all bad news when it comes to baggage policy. Airlines such as Delta guarantee that all checked bags will be available on the carousel 20 minutes or less after your flight arrives, offering free frequent flyer miles for any delays. The carrier also provides up-to-the-minute updates on your checked bags' whereabouts through their smartphone app.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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